Riding The Bomb

Putin fails to assert any dominance with his toxic nuclear empty-talk as Russian copycat fact checkers fail to establish any notable foothold in the West.

Source — EUvsDiSiNFO — March 30, 2023 —

Another week and another case of nuclear hot talk from the Kremlin. This time, Putin’s escalatory rhetoric suggested that Russia plans to place tactical nuclear weapons on Belarusian soil. The exact time and place of such action were left unanswered, but Belarusian authorities later confirmed the plan’s existence.

Putin’s move sparked a response from both the EU, that said the move could result in further sanctions, and NATO, that condemned the irresponsible plans.

Riding the bomb — EUvsDiSiNFO

While Putin’s nuclear intentions were still making circles in Western media, Russian disinformation outlets were busy pushing out lies and excuses, such as making outlandish claims of ‘dirty bombs’ in Ukraine, or likening depleted uranium shells with tactical nuclear weapons stationing.

As we have reported yet and again, the Russian information manipulation ecosystem attempts to capitalise on known taboos associated not only with nuclear weapons, but also with chemical and biological weapons and radiation.

Kremlin propagandists try to feed the common and often irrational fears associated with these types of weaponry. Unfounded fears may in turn lead to confusion and indecisiveness among Western audiences. In the worst case, fear-based decision-making may end up aligning with overt or covert Kremlin goals.

Fake war on fakes …

The pro-Kremlin information manipulation ecosystem’s attempt to steal the thunder of real debunkers and the fact-checking community with copycats seems to have failed to catch audiences, particularly in the West.

Thanks to Logically, it has now been established that WarOnFakes is a pro-Kremlin information manipulation ecosystem-affiliated propaganda project primarily operating on the Telegram platform, with a focus on Russian audiences.

Launched back in March 2022, the project claimed to offer ‘unbiased information’ and to ‘debunk fake news’ related to the war in Ukraine. However, its content has consistently pushed the Kremlin’s stance, defended Russian military forces, and blamed any negative events, not surprisingly, on Ukraine and the West.

The WarOnFakes website is available in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, French, Chinese, and Arabic. Nevertheless, its most significant presence is in the Russian language, and therefore also its greatest impact is on Russian-speaking audiences.

… falls flat on its face

Despite multilingual channels having been created, they have not managed to gain any notable traction among European audiences. WarOnFakes maintains an active presence on Telegram, where it appears to also have local channels targeting specific cities and regions in Russia, such as Belgorod, Rostov, and Crimea.

While the project initially managed to gain some attention, including through a push by official Russian diplomatic accounts (see for example here and here and the apparent use of inauthentic accounts, its website traffic and link referrals have dropped significantly compared to the previous year. The non-Russian language channels on Telegram have not been successful, with the English version being the most popular among them.

Overall, WarOnFakes operates as a Kremlin-aligned information manipulation project, primarily targeting Russian audiences on Telegram with a focus on shaping narratives around the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Its influence in the Russian infosphere has kept it afloat, but its growth, reach, and impact in particular in other languages remains limited.

Also blinking on our disinfo radar this week:


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