Russian trolls are failing to sway US public opinion on Ukraine
While the eyes of the world are transfixed on Russia’s potential invasion of Ukraine, online campaigns of deception and misinformation geared toward sparking a military conflict have been percolating inside Moscow’s digital underground.
On Monday, The Daily Beast reported that a Russian troll farm called Secondary Infektion “has littered the internet with fake government documents and forged screenshots of nonexistent social media posts” nearly two dozen times within the last 12 months. This was accomplished using sock puppet accounts with “stolen avatars” and one-and-done open-forum posts on sites such as Facebook and Reddit.
These maneuvers are part of a broader agenda aimed at weakening the Ukrainian government’s image, its relationships with key Western allies, “and to pit nationalists in the country against minorities.”
One post, according to the Beast, “sought to convince readers that Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky couldn’t build a relationship with Washington because Zelensky’s political rivals held dirt on President [Joe] Biden’s son Hunter and his business dealings in Ukraine.”
Secondary Infektion “included a forged screenshot of a tweet from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott showing Biden embracing former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko—Zelensky’s political rival—warning about how he would ‘pander to a Third World country,’” the Beast explained, noting that “Gov. Abbott’s Twitter account shows no record of having ever published such a tweet, and a spokesperson confirmed in an email that the post was a forgery.”
In another instance, Secondary Infektion was busted exploiting the issue of LGBTQ rights as a means of embarrassing Ukraine on the international stage.
“An October 2021 post forged a letter from a Ukrainian gay rights group, LGBT Association LiGa, protesting a proposed tax on childlessness as discriminatory towards gay couples, who cannot legally adopt children or marry in Ukraine,” the Beast reported. “In a statement published to Facebook, LiGa officials confirmed that the story ‘this letter was printed on a letterhead that does not belong to LiGa and has incorrect contact details of our organization and a faked logo,’ complete with a fake signature from the group’s chairperson, Oleg Alyokhin.”
Despite its best efforts, however, Secondary Infektion’s propaganda operation is being checked by growing public skepticism.“Despite the group’s long pedigree and deep catalog of content, its forgeries and fakes have largely failed to move public opinion or organic engagement on social media,” wrote the Beast.
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