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Fake energy-saving poster urges Swiss to inform on neighbors

Published: Updated:

Swiss authorities have launched an investigation into fake online images of posters calling on citizens to report neighbors for over-heating their homes, which one expert said could have links to Russian disinformation campaigns.

Images have circulated on social media showing what was supposed to be a poster featuring a young woman on a phone and the question: “Does your neighbor have their heating set at more than 19C? Please contact us.”

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A reward of 200 Swiss francs ($207) for information is offered in the image, which also features the Swiss government’s logo and a telephone number for the Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communication (UVEK).

UVEK said the poster was fake and it has launched an investigation.

“The federal government has nothing to do with this call and formally distances itself from it,” UVEK said in a statement.

“There are neither such posters of the federal government nor corresponding requests, it is obviously a manipulation.”

Several online users and experts have debunked the poster.

Marc Owen Jones, an associate professor at Hamad bin Khalifa University in Qatar, said it could have links to Russian propaganda seeking to spread fears about rising energy costs following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s a photoshopped image, and quite a good one,” Jones, who works on how social media has been abused to spread disinformation, tweeted.

One poster on Twitter who spread the image “does a lot of scaremongering about gas prices, deflecting attention from the fact Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a key driver of this,” Jones said. “However, the news was also spread by pro-Russian, Russian-aligned, or official Russian accounts,” he added.

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