U.S. Accuses Russia Of Complex Online Disinformation, Propaganda Operation

August 06, 2020 05:10 GMT – By RFE/RL

The United States has accused Russia of developing a sophisticated “ecosystem” to spread disinformation and propaganda about the coronavirus and other issues.

In a new report published on August 5, the State Department said Russia’s online operations use “five main pillars” to amplify false narratives and conspiracy theories in a bid to sow confusion and fear.

“Russia is playing a significant role in creating and spreading misinformation and propaganda around many topics,” said Lea Gabrielle, head of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center.

The report does not mention Russian disinformation operations around the 2016 U.S. presidential election or if it is waging another online influence campaign ahead of November’s election. The Global Engagement Center’s mandate is to examine propaganda outside the United States.

Instead, the report mainly focused on the Kremlin’s recent efforts to spread disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic using a mutually reinforcing web of disinformation.

“The ecosystem consists of five main pillars: official government communications, state-funded global messaging, cultivation of proxy sources, weaponization of social media, and cyberenabled disinformation,” the report said.

“The Kremlin bears direct responsibility for cultivating these tactics and platforms as part of its approach to using information as a weapon,” it said.

Most of the report examined websites acting as proxies used to proliferate Russian disinformation and propaganda. The State Department described these news sites or research institutions as “critical connective tissue within the broader ecosystem.”

“We found that they promote disinformation in support of the Kremlin’s goals, they’re often promoted directly by the Russian government, and they push specific disinformation narratives that are picked up by other parts of the ecosystem,” Gabrielle said.

“Russia tries to hide its affiliation with these different proxy sites. That’s what makes them effective, is that it’s difficult for just an average person who is online to look at these sites and know that it’s actually Russian disinformation,” she said.

Chinese, Iran, and Russian disinformation operations often echo each other and use similar tactics.

The report profiled seven such proxy sites, although it said that there are many more of varying size and influence. The websites have peddled conspiracy theories and fringe thoughts on a range of topics, including the coronavirus.

One such proxy is the Strategic Culture Foundation, an online journal directed by Russia’s external SVR intelligence agency. The report said the journal gives a voice to Western fringe thinkers and conspiracy theorists to spread anti-U.S. and anti-Western views while obscuring ties to the Russian government.

Another website is New Eastern Outlook, which the report describes as a “pseudo-academic” publication tied to the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute of Oriental Studies that promotes disinformation and propaganda about the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

The State Department identified the Canadian-based Global Research as the largest proxy website, describing it as “deeply enmeshed in Russia’s broader disinformation and propaganda ecosystem.”

It said the website has sought to frame the coronavirus pandemic as a Western conspiracy, publishing articles claiming the virus originated in the United States and was developed for the global elite to control the world. One coronavirus article was republished or linked to by more than 70 websites and publications.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the Russian Embassy in Washington said the report was intended to derail cooperation with the United States and discredit alternative sources of information.

“The U.S. State Department is not very fond of the existence of alternative sources of information. Serious resources are employed to discredit them. Any voice that contradicts Washington is dubbed ‘disinformation’ in the service of the ‘Kremlin’ and Russian intelligence,” it said.

16 comments

  • “Alternative sources of information”…
    Like Russia Today had to change their name to Ruptly. LMAO, ruptly. It’s all another way to whitewash lying and it’s the Moskali version of freedom of speech but if you try it in Moskovia you could vanish for more than 8 years if you survive that long.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ruptly is incredibly dangerous because it masquerades as a news agency. Smaller media companies that cannot afford to have their own people on the ground buy their content without even knowing that it’s pure kremlin agitprop. It needs to be shut down everywhere, along with sputnik, RT etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Good article on a crucial topic. It fails to reference one of the fastest growing products of the St Pete troll farm : QAnon.
    This is tailored to meet the requirements of a fast growth demographic: Trumpoids who love putler and believe there is a satanic paedo conspiracy running the ‘deep state’ and heroic Donald is fighting it. Millions believe this excrement.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard you say that Sir Scradge. I’m quite aware, public, social, up to date, or whatever you want to call it, but I still have never read or met any “Trumpoid” that loves Putler. I’ve yet to see any quotes of any of these mystical fairies that float around in swirling ghastly conspiracies either. 😉 Everyone hates Putler

      Liked by 2 people

      • Trumpoids for putler have a YUGE following. Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Steve Bannon (owner of the trumputin site: Breitbart), Alex Jones, Michael Savage, Jim Hoft (owner of gateway Pundit, another trumputin site), Ann Coulter, Rand and Ron Paul, not to mention Roger Stone, Paul Manafort (close friend of trump who is second only to the rodent fuhrer in terms of responsibility for inflicting death and misery upon Ukraine), Gen Flynn. There are many others too, including veterans sites, disqus trump sites, disqus veterans sites etc.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Oh please! You’re going deeper and deeper into leftist insanity.

          Like

        • I know the list bro, I’m just waiting for some quotes that demonstrate your assertions. Also, the Democrats are Johnny-come-lately to opposing the Moskali, how come you rarely mention them? This is a perfect forum for you Sir Scradge to spell it all out for us. Generalizations are what the copyandpaste zombies do. Go for it! :))

          Liked by 1 person

          • Your memory is shocking redders! I surely don’t need to remind of of the ‘I’m rooting for Russia’ comment by Carlson. Or the ‘Putin should invade Europe to save them from the EU’ comment by Ann Coulter. You want more? ‘Maidan was an EU coup to get rid of a democratic politician’ (Savage). ‘Crimea is Russian because they speak Russian there’. (Trump). Also read anything by the two Pauls on the topic of Ukraine.
            Let me know if you still need more …

            Liked by 1 person

            • Ok, thanks, I will look them up and find the context which is vital to understanding and avoiding slogans and kremprop. For example, I could be quoted as saying, “Ukraine sucks.” By a dishonest journo. But if context was applied, what I really said was, “Ukraine sucks at fighting corruption.” I know you understand.

              Liked by 1 person

    • Q and Qanon is not a Russian product. That accusation is simply foolish.

      Like

      • Who are you to deny it? A member? Behind everything horrible in the world is a Russian trace. 99% of all conspiracy theories are manufactured in Russia. From the moon landings to 9/11 to Pizzagate. QAnon is designed to appeal to cretins whose love for putler is matched by their love of Trumpkov. People like Alex Jones and his many fanboys.

        Like

    • Skeptoid is itself a conspiracy theory site and the headline on that podcast is simply overheated trash. No one following Q holds that the FedGov is run by pedophiles. The truth is bad enough without diving into idiocy of that nature.

      Like

  • Everyone on this site is well awart of Russian propaganda and lies, and I have no doubt governments in the West know all about Russian tactics. The question is, instead of talking about it, what will you do about it?

    Liked by 4 people

  • onlyfactsplease

    Since not long after mafia land’s theft of Crimea and its war waging on Ukraine, there have been numerous reports of Ruskie propaganda networks and false news outlets, spreading Russian filth, scum and rubbish. But, what has been done about this massive information war on the West?
    It’s pathetic.
    “I know that everything you’re telling me is a filthy lie, but keep on talking.”

    Liked by 2 people

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