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Russia Uses Verified Accounts of its Embassies to Spread Propaganda and Fake News

Rusia utiliza las cuentas verificadas de sus embajadas para esparcir propaganda y noticias falsas

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[Leer en español]

New methods of propaganda are being used by the Russian regime to justify its invasion of Ukraine, with the creation of fake profiles on social networks enhanced by artificial intelligence.

The Ukrainian crisis has created a steady stream of falseness that increased massively since the invasion. Much of this flood of disinformation is driven by the Russian government, which goes so far as to use institutional accounts on social networks to disseminate false messages supporting the official version of the Kremlin.

To this end, Russia uses sophisticated viral techniques to spread propaganda.

False verifications

Claims by Spain’s Russian Embassy that have been debunked by EFE News serve as examples.  One of them, deleted by Twitter for violating its rules, describes as “fake news” from the Western media the fact that children, mothers and doctors had been attacked during the bombing of the maternal/children’s hospital in Mariupol.

The Russian embassy in Spain responded to the publication of El American’s Editor-at-Large Emmanuel Rincón, trying to deny the shelling of the Mariupol theater last week.

This propagandist practice was exposed by an investigation of the Media Forensics Hub of Clemson University, South Carolina in the U.S., in collaboration with ProPublica.

The study identified more than a dozen videos created to refute allegedly misleading Ukrainian content that had not been produced and which were recorded at the same time as their fake verifications.

It is “a second level of disinformation” in “this hybrid warfare,” namely the strategy combining military force with unconventional weapons, says Astrid Wagner, senior scientist at Spanish CSIC Institute of Philosophy.

“This is very similar to classic propaganda techniques where stylizing oneself as a victim is an important factor,” Wagner told EFE, illustrating her explanation with examples of anti-Semitic messages used by the Nazis to blame the Jews for the start of the World War II.

Manipulation with artificial intelligence

Among these modern methods, there is the use of artificial intelligence to create faces with human appearances that do not correspond to any real person.

The images were used to lend greater credibility to fake social media profiles intended to spread anti-Ukrainian messages in two operations with connections to Russia and Belarus. They were later banned by Facebook and Twitter in late February, as reported by NBC.

The use of artificial profiles on social networks with a polemicist character (trolls) or automated by means of computer programs (bots) is a common technique in manipulation strategies that simulate non-existent debates to influence public opinion and media.

In this context, journalists have received Telegram and WhatsApp messages with disinformation coming from Russian sources, and from profiles habitually used to publish content on Twitter in favor of the Kremlin’s talking points against Ukraine.

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