Research released by the UK Foreign Office on Sunday found that Russia was running a sophisticated disinformation campaign, to spread pro-Putin messages and gain support for their invasion of Ukraine. Of course, South African politicians are among the prime targets.
South African politicians targeted by disinformation campaign in Russia
A so-called “troll factory” is currently in use to spam the social media posts of our prominent politicians, with figures in the UK and India who would also be vulnerable to these attacks.
The operation sees a swarm of pro-Russian comments posted under the Tweets, Facebook updates and Instagram stories of elected officials. The Kremlin’s goal is to spread their misinformation to widely followed accounts, hoping to recruit more “Putin sympathizers” in other countries.
“A ‘cyber soldier troll factory’ is ruthlessly targeting politicians and the public in a number of countries, including the UK, South Africa and India. The diseased brains of the operation work openly in a former factory in St. Petersburg, with paid employees and in-house work crews.
“The Kremlin’s large-scale disinformation campaign is designed to manipulate international public opinion over Russia’s illegitimate war in Ukraine, trying to build support for their heinous war and recruiting new Putin sympathizers.”
UK Foreign Office
The Kremlin “does badly” in the information war
South Africa has faced a wall of legitimate criticism for its stance on Russia, after the ANC government and its top diplomats refused to formally condemn aggression by Putin’s forces.
According to the British Foreign Office, “cyber soldiers” are recruited via Telegram and then coordinated to strategically target political representatives. South Africa has become fertile ground for these trolls.
“Evidence shows that the troll factory uses Telegram to actively recruit and coordinate new supporters who then target the social media profiles of Kremlin critics – spamming them with pro-Putin and pro-war comments.”
“These trolls now focus their activity on posting comments, rather than creating original content – a tactic that may reduce the risk of being detected by social media platforms. As long as the content they post does not isn’t too offensive, they’re unlikely to be subject to de-platforming interventions.
UK Foreign Office