Germany reveals systemic pro-Russian disinformation campaign on social network X

Germany reveals systemic pro-Russian disinformation campaign on social network X

Berlin, Germany (Svidomi) - More than 50,000 fake accounts are involved in coordinated pro-Russian information campaigns in German, according to a non-public report by the German Federal Foreign Ministry, obtained by Spiegel. 

The bots were spreading about 200,000 tweets a day. The most frequent messages include accusations that the German government allegedly "neglects its own population to support Ukraine." 

"I am disappointed that the government does better for other countries than for its own citizens. It is a pity that the coalition of "traffic lights" does not solve the problems in their own country first," read the most widely spread messages.

Such information operations aim to incite anger, create sentiment and undermine trust in the government, democracy and media in Germany. One of the main points of attack is any German assistance to Ukraine.

German analysts are concerned that part of the campaign is automated. They believe that the spread of disinformation may be fuelled in particular by artificial intelligence.

"Four thousand identified user accounts, apparently controlled from Russia, have been posting German-language content simultaneously and in the same cycle since midnight on December 29, which is apparently controlled by algorithms," the report said. 

The coordinators of the disinformation campaign repeatedly used fake accounts of influential people. For example, in September 2023, they shared a screenshot allegedly from the page of Annalena Baerbock, the German Foreign Minister, who allegedly stated that "the war in Ukraine will end in three months".

In addition, the perpetrators spread fake news, allegedly written by well-known German media outlets. The links lead to websites that, at first glance, look like the original portals of these media outlets but are actually copycat websites controlled by the attackers. Sometimes, such fake news is even signed with the real names of journalists.

"The analysis shows that the fake SPIEGEL article was retweeted more than 3,700 times in just a few hours on the evening of January 19. Each retweet has different comments, but the common narrative is anger at the German government," SPIEGEL journalists said.

The campaign coordinators focus on the masses. The operation is not "sophisticated". There are mistakes, such as the use of Cyrillic in fake tweets. Some accounts have already been blocked, but there are still some that are still active.

"Russian influence campaigns spread distrust in democratic institutions, undermine quality media and thus prevent the formation of an informed political opinion," said Lea Früwirth of the Centre for Monitoring, Analysis and Strategy (CeMAS).

It will be recalled that in August 2023, Meta Corporation announced a new stage of the Doppelganger disinformation campaign, which Russia is conducting to undermine global support for Ukraine. 

The campaign was first detected in 2022 and is called this way because the attackers copy the websites of leading publications and government agencies to spread Russian propaganda.