The War Through TikTok: Russia’s New Tool for the Propaganda Machine

The Russian TikTok video has it all: a cat, puppies, and a pulsating background beat. It’s cute, watchable, and hardly sounds like Kingdom-preaching stuff.

In 2014, Russia flooded the Internet with fake accounts, giving false information about its annexation of Crimea. Eight years later, experts say Russia is making a far more sophisticated effort to invade Ukraine as well.

Armies of trolls and bots stir up anti-Ukrainian sentiments. State-controlled media outlets seek to divide Western audiences. Clever TIC Toc The videos serve Russian nationalism with a side of humour.

The effort equates to an emerging portion of Russia’s war arsenal, with real soldiers and weapons as well as shaping opinion through organized propaganda.

In the cat video, a husky puppy identified by a digitally inserted American flag swipes on the tail of a tabby identified by a Russian flag. The cat responds with a ferocious jaw that sends the helpless dog grunting. The clip, which has garnered 775,000 views in two weeks, is the work of an account FunRussianPresident, which has 310,000 followers. Almost all of its videos contain pro-Russian content.

“It could just be a patriotic Russian fighting the good fight as they see it, or it could just as easily be directly affiliated with the state,” said Nina Jankowicz, a disinformation researcher and expert on Eastern Europe at the Wilson Center in Washington. he said. “Russia is perfecting these tactics.”

Now they are putting them in the game.

Analysts at several different research organizations contacted by the Associated Press said they are seeing a sharp increase in online activity by groups affiliated with the Russian state. This is in keeping with Russia’s strategy of using social media and state-run outlets to garner domestic support while trying to destabilize the Western coalition.

On the Internet, there has been a sharp increase in suspicious accounts spreading anti-Ukrainian content, according to a report by Cybra, an Israeli tech company working to detect propaganda.

Cybra analysts have reported thousands of . tracked down Facebook And Twitter Accounts that recently posted about Ukraine. They saw a sudden and dramatic increase in anti-Ukrainian content in the days just before the invasion. For example, on Valentine’s Day, the number of anti-Ukrainian posts created by a sample of Twitter accounts increased by 11,000 percent compared to the day before. Analysts believe a significant portion of the accounts are unauthenticated and controlled by groups affiliated with the Russian government.

“When you see 11,000 percent growth, you know something is going on,” said Dan Brahmi, CEO of Cybra. “No one can know who is doing this behind the scenes. We can only guess.”

Work has been going on for some time.

Researchers at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab analyzed 3,000 articles from 10 state-owned Russian news outlets and found a large increase in unfounded claims that Ukraine was ready to attack separatist groups. Overall, Russian media claims of Ukrainian aggression increased by 50% in January, according to the research.

“This is how they go to war; It is a central part of Russian doctrine,” said Jim Ludes, a former US defense analyst who now directs the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina University. Luddes said the Russian propaganda campaigns are aimed at increasing Russian support while confusing and dividing the country’s opponents.

Russia tailors its promotional message to a specific audience.

For Russians and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, the message is that Russia is trying to defend its people against Western-fueled aggression and oppression in Ukraine. Ludes said similar tactics had been used, including by Nazi Germany, when it invaded Czechoslovakia under the guise of protecting the ethnic Germans living there.

“It’s not the good guys who use this tactic,” Ludes said. “It is the language of victory, not the language of democracy.”

Russia is also using propaganda to mislead and demoralize its opponents. For example, the Kremlin said it resumed fighting on Saturday after pausing for possible talks with Ukraine. But AP reporters in different regions of Ukraine noticed that the Russian offensive never stopped.

The chaotic information environment surrounding the invasion gave rise to confusing and sometimes contradictory accounts. On Friday, Ukrainian officials said all soldiers stationed on the strategic Snake Island had been killed after refusing to surrender to Russian demands. Russian state TV later showed what it claimed were footage of soldiers living in custody. The AP was unable to immediately verify any of the claims.

Meanwhile, the US has information that Russia is disseminating false reports about the widespread surrender of Ukrainian troops and claims that Moscow “threatens family members of Ukrainian soldiers not to surrender,” according to the State Department. According to spokesman Ned Price.

Russia has also employed cyber-attacks in its invasion of Ukraine, and while they pose a serious threat, online propaganda can leave even more lasting damage if successful, according to retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Nagata, Strategic Former Director of Operations Planning US National Counter Terrorism Center.

“Whatever is more dangerous is Russia’s potential to affect populations everywhere,” Nagata said. “To make them believe in things that are useful to Russian strategic interests … If you are able to change the confidence of the entire population, you may not have to attack anything.”

In the West, Russia seeks to sow division and reduce the likelihood of a unified international response. It does this partly through state-controlled media outlets such as Sputnik and RT, which publish in English, Spanish and several other languages.

“The offensive is off,” read a headline in RT last week, days before Russian troops moved into eastern Ukraine. “Tucker Carlson slams Biden for focusing on Putin, Ukraine on US domestic problems,” reads another in Sputnik News, reflecting a common Russian practice: citing government critics in the US (such as Fox News). Host Carlson) for suggesting that America’s leaders are out of touch.

The European Union signaled its concerns about RT on Wednesday when it added RT’s editor-in-chief to a list of sanctions imposed on Russian officials. The European Union called the RT’s leader, Margarita Simonyan, “a central figure of government propaganda”.

On Friday, Facebook announced it would block RT from running ads on its site and said it would expand the use of its label to identify state-run media.

Ludes said he is pleased to see the US and its allies pushing back forcefully on Russian propaganda and even trying to stop it by publicly disclosing Russia’s plans.

“The Biden The administration has demonstrated some creativity in using intelligence to respond,” he said. “We haven’t seen this from the West since the days of the Cold War.”

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