DISINFORMATION
Spreading fear of World War Three became the most recent tool of Kremlin propaganda

Infosecurity.sk: Bi-Weekly Report on Emerging Disinformation Trends May 4, 2022
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The Kremlin propaganda continues to justify its aggression towards Ukraine. They keep pointing fingers to the west as the guilty one for the war. Most of the disinformation is shared on Facebook or Telegram, since many of the disinformation websites continue to be blocked.

Infosecurity.sk presents an overview of disinformation trends that have been on the rise in information space in the past two weeks:

  • The most popular disinformation narratives are related to the war in Ukraine. The false claims were usually about providing weaponry. Disinformation actors were often providing false warnings that by helping Ukraine with weapons Slovakia will head towards World War Three.
  • Another narrative, popular in disinformation groups, was that sanctions against the Russian Federation are useless. Propagandists repeatedly shared that Russia is a prospering and wealthy country. On the other hand, the European Union is supposed to be poorer by every sanction.
  • Narratives on biological laboratories made by the USA in Ukraine, which are supposed to be deadly to the masses, are still active. The Kremlin uses this statement as a justification of the aggression.
  • There were also reoccurring disinformation about Covid-19 pandemic, and the vaccines. Often they were spread by the same actors that share disinformation about the war in Ukraine.

Heading to World War Three by providing weapons to Ukraine

The most recent narrative was that Slovakia, and all the other Western countries, are provoking the beginning of World War Three by providing weapons to Ukraine. In recent days, disinformation actors often shared the statement of German chancellor Olaf Scholz, who disagreed with giving heavy weaponry, since it could've escalated to WW3 and NATO should beware of confrontation with highly armed nuclear superpower such as Russia.

Ľuboš Blaha, Slovak opposition politician known for his often controversial views, wrote on his Facebook page that “Scholz indirectly accused the Slovak government, that by giving weapons to UA, they are driving Europe into WW3. They should immediately resign.

Blaha was not the only one appealing for the current Slovak government to resign. According to the disinformation actors, the sanctions against Russia are in fact aimed at and detrimental to the European Union. Very often the opposition, and people unsatisfied with the government use sanctions as a reason for the demand of the government's resignation. 

This narrative was accompanied by so-called whataboutism. Instead of weapons for Ukraine, far-right party Republika requests help for Slovak people affected by rising prices.

Demilitarisation of Slovakia is also frequently brought up. According to a Facebook post by general Viktorín, the Slovak government is giving away the S-300 system, Zuzana howitzers, fighter jets, and tanks, in order for the current government to gain money.

He later speculatively asks, “Who does the weakened capacity of the Armed Forces suit? Who is behind this?” Even though these questions are relatable, there is no reason to panic because of demilitarisation. Slovakia still has the key technologies, and NATO is helping in covering the areas Slovakia provided for Ukraine. For example, when Slovakia gifted the defence system S-300, it got in return the defensive systems Patriot.

Russia – dream country, Putin – dream president

Pro-Russian actors are trying to portray Russia as the greatest country without any problems, and advocate the illusion that Vladimir Putin has huge support across the whole world.

According to one Facebook page, “across the whole Russia, pioneer camps are being restored, new schools are built, trillions of rubles will go to science to make it the greatest in the world, working people and pensioners will have free touristic trips on territory of Russia.”

Another post, with description “written by V.V. Putin”, claims that Russia was again forced to sacrifice lives to defend the world against nazism and fascism. They ask “everyone that wants to live and work in peace” to help Russia deal with “nazistic hawks” of the USA and NATO.

These statements are however opposing reality. Propagandists at the Kremlin are using these narratives for the long-term, a very common one is about the West unjustly and slyly surrounding Russia. That is not true, since the Russian Federation shares only 6% of its borders with NATO, which is in its core a defensive alliance. 

Facebook page 'Hoaxes and Frauds - Police of Slovak Republic' made a series of banners called 'freezing facts about Russia', which showed that millions of Russians don't have access to benefits which Europeans take for granted, such as warm water, or social facilities.

Covid-19 disinformation is still present…

The disinformation scene did not forget about the Covid-19 pandemic, and kept sharing various conspiracy theories about vaccines or the disease itself. However, sources of disinformation remained more or less the same.

Disinformation outlet 'Zem a Vek', came with a statement that there is genocide on the Slovak population. According to the article, “phenomenal increase in deaths occurred after several waves of violent mass testings. This act fulfils the substance of the crime of population genocide.”

The disinformation outlet claims in the article that the deaths, before testing took place, were much smaller in percentage. There is no scientific evidence for claims that testing causes neither health problems nor death.

Another problematic outlet, 'Bádateľ', came with statements that Covid-19 vaccines are killing the immune system, and post-vaccine complications will lead the healthcare system to a collapse. They called the booster shots “absolutely crazy, dangerous absurdity” which causes serious health problems. Bádateľ recycled also the narrative of graphene in vaccines. According to the title of the article “No one is safe: Vaccinated people can transmit graphene to the non-vaccinated ones.”

This statement was debunked already in 2021.

… and it is used in Ukraine narratives in connection to bio-laboratories

Soňa Peková, a molecular geneticist who was an important figure of the disinformation scene related to the pandemic, appeared again. Now, she asked people to pray for Putin's health, as he was shelling biological laboratories in Ukraine and thanks to that, according to her, the deathly pathogens will not spread.

This might show that Covid-19 disinformation actors are starting to share false claims about war in Ukraine. Presumably, both of these narratives have the same audience.

According to another narrative shared on Facebook, the USA is developing a virus that can supposedly kill half of the Slavs and two thirds of Asian population. Americans were allegedly trying to spread the virus by migrating birds. The narrative of American biological laboratories is present already for a long term and has now been applied to the war in Ukraine. 

It seems that conspiracy theorists and disinformation actors turned most of their attention to Ukraine, but they still try to blend these topics together, for example by saying that it was laboratories in Ukraine, which were supposed to spread the Covid-19.

Project Infosecurity.sk organised by STRATPOL – Strategic Policy Institute and Slovak Security Policy Institute, which is supported by the Prague office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, continuously monitors the activities of both Slovak and foreign disinformation actors, but focuses mainly on the former. The project activities are built upon daily monitoring of emerging disinformation, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories in the online information space. This approach allows the analysts to identify disinformation posts and narratives that resonated with the public the most, as well as to find out where they originated, and how they spread and evolved on social media. The report takes the form of a bi-weekly summary of arising trends in the spread of malicious information content online. Based on that, Infosecurity.sk can warn the public about emerging and current trends in the field of disinformation, manipulation, and propaganda.