Last year, Russia was the main source of disinformation directed against the EU. In a third of recorded cases, Ukraine and its representatives became the objects of informational attacks.
This is stated in reports on disinformation and manipulation of facts in the world information space for 2022, published by the foreign policy service of the European Union, informs Censor. NO.
According to the document, Russia is the main source of information manipulation aimed at discrediting the European Union. In 33 cases out of 100, Ukraine and its representatives became direct targets of information attacks, and in 60 cases out of 100, the main purpose of disinformation was to justify the Russian invasion.
Official Russian channels play a major role in spreading disinformation and manipulation. “Official accounts of diplomatic missions of the Russian Federation in social networks work as a coordinated network of spreading disinformation and are already fully integrated into a large system of information manipulation,” experts note.
EU High Diplomat Josep Borrell gave an example at a conference dedicated to this topic: Russian diplomatic accounts spread a statement that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are “neo-Nazi paramilitary groups that commit atrocities against civilians, including children,” adding naturalistic photos and videos of the killed and wounded, reports DW. This was followed by a call to demonstrate in EU countries.
“Of course, this is a lie, and we know it,” Borrell says. “It is Russia that is bombing cities, playgrounds, schools and hospitals all over Ukraine. However, not everyone knows this.”
In an attempt to confuse users, Russian diplomatic accounts in social networks promote disinformation narratives under the guise of “fact checking.” At most, Moscow uses its participation in diplomatic forums to reinforce and legitimize disinformation, false statements about Ukraine (for example, claims about biolaboratories, Ukraine being under Nazi rule, etc.).
The EU has “clear evidence that Russia has mobilized all its tools” to carry out disinformation and manipulation campaigns, Borrell said. He called it a “systematic distortion of reality” to divert attention from the invasion of Ukraine. According to the study, distraction and distortion of facts are the main tasks of disinformation. In 42 percent of cases, Russia seeks to shift attention to another actor, another narrative, or shift the blame. In 35 percent of cases, Russia tries to change the framing and the narrative itself.
Almost all disinformation narratives used by the Kremlin to justify the invasion and mobilize domestic support date back to 2013-2014 and the Maidan. In this context, the Kremlin seeks to portray Ukraine as a “Nazi state”, “a state that did not happen” or “not a state at all”. In this way, the pro-Kremlin media prepared the ground for a military invasion for years.
“We have seen attempts to confuse and mislead people with ever-changing narratives and versions of events. The goal is to make sure that no one believes anything anymore, so that people come to the conclusion: “Well, everyone is lying. How can I tell a lie from the truth?” Borrell said.
Behind this is the desire to undermine trust in all mass media and democratic institutions, he is sure.
The Russian authorities are well aware that popular support is extremely important in democratic countries, says European Commissioner Vira Yurova. In this case, it is support for sanctions against the Russian Federation, public support for aid to Ukraine, and the reception of Ukrainian refugees. On the international stage, the Kremlin is manipulating information to undermine international aid for Ukraine, an EU study has highlighted.
Manipulative content is produced in at least 30 languages, 16 of which are languages of the European Union. At the same time, 44 percent of Russian content is aimed at Russian speakers, and 36 percent – at English speakers.
The task here is to “sow doubts about who is the aggressor, hence the emphasis on disinformation narratives that accuse NATO and especially the US of trying to surround and contain Russia through Ukraine,” the report says. Another goal of Moscow is to break the international community’s resolve to condemn the war and hold Russia accountable for violations of international law.
In addition, with the help of their proxies and manipulative behavior in social networks, pro-Kremlin figures seek to exacerbate and use painful points for various communities: the topics of migration and refugees, the rise in the cost of living, energy prices, etc.
Researchers point to the emergence of a new wave of disinformation methods. Yes, Russia uses cheap technologies for the production of fake images and videos – the main carriers of disinformation. Sometimes images and graphics are faked for international organizations and trusted mass media – the style of the magazine, graphic elements of story design, etc. are completely copied.
Borrell also cited the example of memes that appeared after the launch of the European Union training mission, where the EU is presented as a servant of NATO. “This post appeared on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia. Yes, on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs! 10 minutes later – in their Telegram channel, and then quickly spread through more than 100 channels, including Sputnik Africa,” the diplomat said.
The report also documents Russia’s cooperation with China in this field, under which “the content created by one disinformation system is reinforced by another.”