Russians use Twitter to promote anti-Ukrainian narratives in Canada — research

Russians use Twitter to promote anti-Ukrainian narratives in Canada — research

A group of Canadian researchers from the University of Regina, the MacDonald-Laurier Institute, the University of Maryland College of Information Studies, and Stanford University analysed the Canadian segment of Twitter for a year before and after the full-scale invasion.

The researchers identified about 90 Twitter accounts (primarily Canadian) systematically promoting pro-Russian narratives. For two years, roughly 200,000 other unique users liked and retweeted them.

About 60% of the accounts belonged to the far right, and about 30% were from the far left, which wasn’t openly sympathetic to Russia by previous observations.

The researchers have discovered there was not a Russian bot farm but real accounts. While the far right openly promote Putin himself, the left ones are less focused on supporting the actions of the Russian government and more critical of NATO, considering the Alliance, not Russia, the cause of the war in Ukraine. 

Twitter is also spreading narratives that Canada's foreign policy has been "hijacked" by the Ukrainian diaspora and that anti-Russian sanctions have led to inflation and rising fuel prices.

The data show the intensity of pro-Russian rhetoric almost doubled in the three months before the full-scale invasion. 

The researchers also conducted an opinion poll, which showed that about a quarter of respondents believe that NATO started the Russian-Ukrainian war.

According to the researchers, this is the first modern case in Canadian society when narratives of the far left have gained such a level of influence in public discourse.