Microsoft task force flagged Russian disinformation campaigns aimed at influencing the US elections

Russian influence operations have gained momentum over the last two months. The Microsoft Threat Analysis Center (MTAC) has identified at least 70 Russian actors who are spreading disinformation about Ukraine using traditional and social media, as well as covert and overt efforts on the eve of US elections.

China aims to exploit societal polarization and undermine trust in US democratic systems, while Russian actions aim to erode US support for Ukraine. Furthermore, the success of sophisticated AI deepfake movies in manipulating voters remains unproven, whereas simpler AI-enhanced and AI-audio fake content is likely to be more effective.

These observations and analyses are presented in the second Microsoft Threat Intelligence Election Report, which was released on April 17.

Russia’s disinformation campaigns

Russia’s targets include not only the United States but also Europe. In light of recent events, it is actively attempting to propagate its narratives to influence European Parliament elections.

Russia devised techniques to circumvent the ban on its state propaganda media, and the number of dubious websites offering pro-Russian content has increased. To conceal it, the Russia-funded resources altered their activity’s branding. They also duplicated articles from “Russia Today” and Sputnik on new websites with no obvious links to Moscow. 

In addition, numerous pro-Moscow websites fall under the category of “useful idiots.” Some blatantly broadcast Russian propaganda. Others produce generic global news pieces that mimic a balanced editorial style. Nonetheless, they accurately include disinformation and pro-Kremlin propaganda pieces in their newswires.

Pro-Russian media in Europe

Insight News conducted a study in February and March that identified a network of news websites in Europe that propagate pro-Russian narratives, interconnected by quotations, hyperlinks, and user traffic. 

The identified network of websites disseminates negative materials against the political establishment in Europe and favorable materials about right-wing radical and Eurosceptic parties in the context of the European Parliament election campaign.

The websites on the list have different levels of bias, from constant criticism of the West, choosing only negative information about the West, the EU, and Ukraine and positive coverage of Russia, to spreading well-known Russian fakes and harsh Kremlin propaganda quoting Putin’s state media.

Pro-Russian websites network in Europe that serves Russia’s information warfare

The need to monitor the pro-Russian website network

Recently, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised to fight back against Putin’s far-right “friends,” who, in her words, want to “steal the future of Europe.”

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned of threats from right-wing populists, speaking ahead of the European Parliament elections in June.

In these circumstances, experts, watchdogs, and the United States and EU states need to monitor these sites, and readers should question such content because efforts that favor Russia in the information field in times of geopolitical confrontation play into the hands of the Putin regime and are detrimental to Europeans and Americans.

After all, Russia has shown that it is waging not only a war on the battlefield to destroy Ukraine but also an information war to undermine national security in the US and Europe.

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