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A Russian influence campaign is exploiting protests on university campuses

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A Russian influence campaign is exploiting protests on university campuses

X did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment.

The posts did not receive a large amount of engagement, but unlike China’s disinformation campaigns, some seemingly authentic users did respond to the posts. One responded by writing “Fuck Palestine,” while another reacted with an image that read: “Free Palestine.”

The covert Doppelganger campaign echoed narratives pushed by open Russian channels, including Telegram groups and state media, which have spent the last week highlighting the “threat of deadly police violence against protesters” and linking the current protests to the Kent State protests in 1970 when four students were shot and killed by the National Guard. While there have been more than 2,000 arrests in university protests in the United States so far, the protests have been largely peaceful and no one has died.

On Facebook, Sputnik wrote: “’Land of the free?’ How US lawmakers are restricting students’ right to peacefully protest: US lawmakers have once again shown where their sympathies lie in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by suppressing student protests against the bloodbath in the Gaza Strip.

The coordinated campaign has also been carried out on Telegram, where Russian influencers with hundreds of thousands of subscribers have been amplifying content around the protests. On one channel, a military blogger with more than 800,000 followers posted videos showing police on college campuses across the United States, claiming they showed “urban warfare training.” In a comment on the video, a subscriber asked when the conflict will begin: “North against South, crips against blood, donkeys against elephants and everyone against everyone.” The post has been viewed more than 250,000 times.

Telegram channels appear to be coordinating around a narrative that accuses the US government of hypocrisy when it comes to the freedom to protest and organize, according to an analysis shared with WIRED by Logically, a company that uses artificial intelligence to track disinformation campaigns.

“As the 2024 US elections approach, this is another example of signals emerging from Russian-language channels that Russia is changing its access to US internal affairs after nearly two years of focusing primarily on Ukraine. “, Kyle Walter, global director of research at Innovation. In Logically, he tells WIRED.

Russia is not alone in this. Along with China and Iran, state media in the three countries have produced nearly 400 English-language articles about the university protests in the space of two weeks, according to NewsGuard, an organization that tracks online misinformation. These governments have also used social media platforms in their official capacity to push their narratives: a post on “Uh.”

Misinformation surrounding the protests has not been limited to foreign actors, and far-right figures based in the United States have fueled numerous conspiracies surrounding Soros and others funding the protests, including the purchase of tents for students, what has been repeated in the main media. But Russia is now trying to take advantage of those narratives:

“Doppelganger is using pre-existing conspiracies about the protests and adopting and expanding them for the Kremlin’s own purposes, using multiple avenues to increase support for Trump, while amplifying pre-existing ones and adding his own criticisms of Biden,” the people told WIRED. Antibot4Navalny researchers.

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