Germany uncovers major Russian disinformation campaign on X: Report

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Germany has uncovered a major “pro-Russian disinformation campaign” using thousands of fake accounts on X to try and stir anger at Berlin’s support for Ukraine, a media report said on Friday.

The revelations come amid growing concern about the impact increasingly sophisticated disinformation campaigns could have on elections.

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Experts commissioned by the German foreign ministry used specialized software to monitor posts on the online platform X, formerly known as Twitter, between December 20 and January 20, news weekly Der Spiegel wrote.

They reportedly stumbled across more than 50,000 fake user accounts that together pumped out more than a million German-language tweets.

A common theme was the accusation that Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government was neglecting the country’s own population in favor of helping Ukraine in its war against Russia, according to Spiegel, which said it has seen excerpts of the analysis.

The accounts also often linked to fake news stories on websites designed to resemble those of genuine media outlets, Spiegel said, leading analysts to connect it to the Russia-linked “Doppelganger” campaign already known to authorities.

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The discoveries come at a time of increasing worries about the effect that sophisticated disinformation campaigns could have on elections.

Three regional elections are taking place this year in eastern Germany, where the far-right AfD party is riding high in the polls.

In June, some 400 million people across the European Union will be eligible to vote in the European Parliament election.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned this week that 2024 will be a “critical year” for fighting disinformation from actors such as Russia.

Elections will become “the prime target for malign foreign actors”, he warned.

The World Economic Forum has ranked disinformation as its number-one threat over the next two years.

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