Russian troll farm activity up by 3,000% since late 2021, research finds

29 January, 01:41 PM
The quantity and activity of Kremlin-linked Twitter accounts has surged dramatically since September 2021 (Photo:REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)

The quantity and activity of Kremlin-linked Twitter accounts has surged dramatically since September 2021 (Photo:REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)

Автор: Eric Malinowski

The quantity and activity of Kremlin-linked Twitter accounts has surged dramatically since September 2021, according to a report published by U.S. media research organization Mythos Labs on Jan. 18.

The report reads, the number of Twitter accounts spreading pro-Russian propaganda narratives has increased from 58 in November, 2021, to 697 by early January, 2022.

Meanwhile the volume of tweets by those profiles surged by 3,270%, compared to last September. 

Mythos Labs is a U.S.-based organization that uses both Artificial Intelligence algorithms and human researchers to combat misinformation. Their recurring reports on Russian Twitter propaganda campaigns are put together by Olga Tokariuk (@olgatokariuk on Twitter), a researcher and journalist based in Kyiv.

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The organization said that unlike their usual modus operandi, Russia-linked Twitter accounts peddling misinformation have recently shifted their focus to primarily English-speakers.

“The share of English-language tweets posted by such accounts grew to 57% in December – up from just 34% in November,” the report said.

“This signals a change in tactics of pro-Russian Twitter accounts: by targeting English-speaking audiences, they are now primarily trying to undermine support for Ukraine in the West.”

At the same time, their narratives moved away from “vilifying Ukraine” and more towards persuading other countries to stand aside and stop “interfering in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.” Moscow’s propaganda efforts on Twitter seek to blame U.S. President Joe Biden for “giving up on Ukraine” and for “prioritizing Ukraine over domestic matters” simultaneously, Mythos Labs found.

Another finding of the report is that Kremlin’s troll farms appeared to be pivoting from promoting inauthentic accounts, to amplifying the voices of legitimate actors who parrot pro-Russian talking points.

“Another prominent individual being amplified by pro-Russian accounts is Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL),” said the report.

“His tweet advocating American non-intervention in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia was shared more than 2,600 times, including by 12 accounts known to spread pro-Russian disinformation/propaganda about Ukraine.”

These Russian attempts to sow discord and disunity amongst Ukraine’s western allies come as some countries, such as Germany, are already concerned that providing military aid to Ukraine would harm efforts to de-escalate tensions between Russia, Ukraine and European and American powers.

Since the end of Oct. 2021, Russia has been massing troops close to the Ukrainian borders. Russia has since deployed more than 130,000 troops and offensive weapons near the Ukrainian border and in temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories, according to figured cited by the Ukrainian Minister of Defense during a recent parliamentary hearing.

International media have speculated that Russia may invade Ukraine in early 2022, in an operation that could involve up to 200,000 Russian soldiers.

The situation on Ukraine's eastern border is a matter of deep concern for both U.S. and EU officials. According to U.S. President Joe Biden, the White House is looking at a range of options to dissuade Russia from a potential attack on Ukraine.

On Jan. 14, the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated that the United States has evidence of Russia planning to conduct various false flag operations in Donbas. 

Corroborated by the Pentagon, Psaki said that Moscow sent operatives, trained in explosives and urban combat, into eastern Ukraine, to be used to stage false flag operations that could give Putin a pretext to once again invade Ukraine.

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