Research published by the British Foreign Office on Sunday has revealed that Russia is running a sophisticated disinformation campaign, in order to spread pro-Putin messages and garner support for their invasion of Ukraine. Of course, South African politicians are amongst the top targets.
South African politicians targeted in Russia disinformation campaign
A so-called ‘troll factory’ is currently being employed to spam the social media posts of our prominent politicians, with figures in the UK and India also allegedly vulnerable to these attacks.
The operation sees a swarm of pro-Russian comments posted under the Tweets, Facebook updates, and Instagram stories of elected public officials. The goal of the Kremlin is to get their disinformation out to accounts with large followings, in the hope of recruiting more ‘Putin sympathisers’ in other countries.
“A ‘troll factory of cyber soldiers’ are ruthlessly targeting politicians and audiences across a number of countries including the UK, South Africa and India. Sick masterminds of the operation are believed to be working overtly from an old factory in St Petersburg, with paid employees, and internal working teams.”
“The Kremlin’s large-scale disinformation campaign is designed to manipulate international public opinion of Russia’s illegitimate war in Ukraine, trying to grow support for their abhorrent war, and recruiting new Putin sympathisers.”
UK Foreign Office
Kremlin ‘fighting dirty’ in 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 officially condemn the aggression of Putin’s forces.
According to the UK Foreign Office, ‘cybersoldiers’ are being recruited via Telegram, and then being co-ordinated to strategically target political representatives. South Africa has become a fertile breeding ground for these trolls.
“The evidence shows the troll factory is using Telegram to actively recruit and co-ordinate new supporters who then target the social media profiles of Kremlin critics – spamming them with pro-Putin and pro-war comments.”
“These troll are now focusing activity on posting comments, rather than authoring original content – a tactic likely to decrease the risks of being detected by social media platforms. Provided the content they post is not too offensive, they are unlikely to be subject to de-platforming interventions.”
UK Foreign Office