Report on Wednesday focuses in particular on the use of this network by the Russian government to stimulate misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic as it spreads around the world.
It does not mention Russian disinformation in the context of the 2020 presidential election, as it is outside the mandate of the Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), which focuses on foreign propaganda and disinformation aimed at foreign audiences.
However, on the same day the report was published, the Ministry revealed “a reward of up to $ 10 million for information leading to the identification or location of any person who, acting in the direction of or under the control of a foreign government, interferes in the Elections. in the United States by engaging in certain criminal cyber activities, “said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Wednesday’s report describes “Russia’s ecosystem of misinformation and propaganda,” consisting of “five main pillars: government-funded government communications, global communications, growing proxy sources, social media armaments, and cyber-supported disinformation.”
“The Kremlin has a direct responsibility to improve these tactics and platforms as part of its approach to using information as a weapon,” the report said.
He claims that Russia “has operated the concept of continuous competitive competition in the information environment by encouraging the development of a disinformation and propaganda ecosystem that allows for diverse and overlapping approaches that reinforce each other, even when individual messages in the system seem contradictory,” which gives him “three perceived advantages.”
“First, it allows for the introduction of multiple variations of the same false narratives. This allows different pillars of the ecosystem to refine their misinformation narratives to suit different target audiences, as there is no need for consistency, as would be the case with government communications, “the report said.
“Second, it provides plausible negativity for Kremlin officials when proxy sites commit harsh and dangerous misinformation, allowing them to deflect criticism while still introducing pernicious information,” the statement said.
“Third, it creates a media multiplier effect among the various pillars of the ecosystem that enhance their reach and resonance,” the statement said.
“This ecosystem approach is also appropriate for strengthening Russia’s overall goals of calling into question the value of democratic institutions and weakening the international trust and international cohesion of the United States and its allies and partners,” the report said.
The report uses publicly available reporting and provides significant details on the “seven sites and disinformation organizations aligned with the Kremlin” – the Foundation for Strategic Culture, Global Studies, New East View, News Front, SouthFront, Katehon and Geopolitica.ru.
“The threat of disinformation from China and Russia is real”
The US government has accused Russia, China and Iran of pushing conspiracy theories about the deadly pandemic, including false claims that it originated in the United States.
GEC special envoy Lea Gabriel told reporters on Wednesday that they had identified cases of Russia and its proxies promoting the pro-Chinese Communist Party’s stories, noting that “the threat of disinformation between China and Russia is real.”
The report states that “between February and April 2020, the seven Kremlin-aligned disinformation sites and organizations profiled in this report are spreading stories critical of the United States and favorable to Russia’s position, especially in connection with the outbreak of COVID-19. “.
All seven proxy centers “consistently adopt positions that reflect the Russian government and state-funded media,” the report said.
The report identified “173,000 tweets and retweets that included links to these sites” from April 1 to June 30, 2020, but noted that (e) except for Global Research and SouthFront, the sites surveyed had a relatively limited presence on Twitter. “.
“All News Front Twitter accounts have been suspended and New Eastern Outlook does not have an active Twitter account. However, the content of these stores is still widely shared on the platform, “the statement said. “Approximately 59,000 accounts worldwide, excluding those in the United States, shared articles from these stores during the reporting period. However, most of this activity comes from a concentrated group of active accounts.”
Asked if the GEC uses an indicator to assess how successful Russia’s disinformation efforts have been, Special Envoy Gabriel said: “There is no way to determine, for example, the number of proxy sites that are there because they are very easy to put down and borrow. to adapt and change. “
Zachary Cohen and CNN’s Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.