An aggressive propaganda campaign in Russian mainstream media appears to be ramping up in recent weeks and months. This notion becomes quite evident, specifically in a recent article by the Russian version of DW, which published a list of “The Five Most popular fakes about Europe in Russian social networks.”
To find out how these fakes diffuse in the public, DW supposedly analyzed messages in the Russian-language segment of Twitter and Facebook. To this end it used two platforms for monitoring social networks: CrowdTangle and BuzzSumo.
According to DW, on Facebook, there were almost no “fakes” about Europe among the popular posts, with more than two and a half thousand likes, reposts or comments. Among the public pages on Facebook, videos and pictures reflecting interesting facts about Europe, as well as travel posts to EU countries, are most popular.
The most popular positive text post about the EU is the entry by Ukrainian TV presenter Dmitro Komarov about how European pensioners live happily. In total, he scored more than 23,000 so-called interactions – that is, reposts, likes and comments. How the upper “popular post” went past DW’s “fake detector” remains a mystery.
The most popular media tweet about the EU and Germany is a DW post about why there are no stray dogs in Germany. It received upwards of 3,300 interactions.
As an example of Russian misinformation, DW demonstrated three “fakes” from Twitter, and two from Facebook:
- Facebook: German old woman married a young refugee
The “shocking” news that received approximately 4,000 interactions reported that an 85-year-old German woman had married an 18-year-old refugee. There were pictures to accompany it.
DW notes that the photo shows the 70-year-old Swede Mona-Lisa Larsson and her 19-year-old lover Aziz Maganda from Uganda. The article says that this story has nothing to do with refugees in Europe, but rather an extreme example of a peculiar dating exchange, gaining popularity in Uganda. Retirees from Western countries allegedly come to this African country, looking for adventure or relationships with local residents. For Larsson, Aziz was the second such partner – a year earlier she got married, and a few months later broke up with another young Ugandan.
It could not be considered as a “shocking” news. It looks more like a sort of “win” of Germany and Austria’s failed “multi-culti” agenda. You know a 18-yo man from Uganda apparently was in Germany on a business trip and accidentally married a 85-year-old woman. “Nothing related to migration”.
- Facebook: Marry a woman from Iceland for 5,000 euros per month
This is a pretty old story, that Iceland has such a short supply of men, that the government is willing to pay 5,000 euro per month to any foreign who decides to marry a woman and live in Iceland.
It was first published in 2016, but two years later in 2018 it gathered 3,849 reports, 58 likes and 7 comments, which also is an example of a post that’s simply of quite low friction, but regardless. It is also such a piece of news that, even if true, would simply cause a few laughs and it is a mystery of how specifically it impacts the general public’s perception.
This is where it gets interesting, with the fakes actually concerning issues that are quite real.
- Twitter: Migrant crime and inadequate reaction of German authorities
Мда уж… В Германии мать 12-летней девочки, которую сексуально домогался в поезде темнокожий тип, разместила в Фейсбуке его фото с просьбой помочь опознать его. Полиция велела удалить фото, а женщине грозит наказание, т.к. размещать фото человека без согласия того – преступление
— Vladimir Kornilov (@Kornilov1968) November 23, 2018
“Hmm … In Germany, the mother of a 12-year-old girl who was sexually harassed by a dark-skinned type posted her photo on Facebook with a request to help identify him. The police ordered the photo to be deleted, and the woman may is threatened by punishment, as posting a person’s photo without consent is a crime”
According to DW, the most popular “fake tweet” about Europe was the post of political observer for Rossiya Segodniya Vladimir Kornilov – 3003 interactions. DW claimed that the author of the tweet manipulates the facts, exposing everything as if the mother of the girl who had been sexually harassed was accused of a crime, but it is not known whether the offending migrant will be punished.
The incident of an African refugee harassing a 12-year-old girl on a train did happen. And the girl’s mother actually posted a photo of the suspect on Facebook. The police demanded the woman to remove the photo, saying that private individuals under the law cannot arrange a public search and the man depicted in the photo had the right to file a lawsuit.
However, DW demonstrates the stituation like the police simply asked for permission to carry out their work independently and in accordance with the laws. As a result of the public reveal of the identity of the person and media attention, the man was detained and placed in a pre-trial detention center, and no prosecution was carried out against the girl’s mother.
The DW “investigators” are shifting the idea of the fact that migrant crime in Europe is at an obvious rise. This is testified by various reports such as this, especially in Cologne on December 31st, 2015, on New Year’s Eve, when gangs of newcomers harassed women, and so on. Reports such as this are the norm, and it does appear as if the authorities in Germany, and other European countries are doing very little.
- Twitter: WhatsApp EU restrictions
– Вы слышали, WhatsApp запретили использовать детям до 16 лет!
– Господи, сколько этот режим может издеваться над своим народом! Путин должен уйти!
– Так это же в Евросоюзе.
– Ну вот же молодцы какие, оберегают моральное здоровье юного поколения! Это настоящая забота о людях!
— Голос Мордора (@spacelordrock) May 1, 2018
“- You heard WhatsApp banned the use of children under 16!
– Lord, how much this regime can mock its people! Putin must leave!
– So this is in the European Union.
– Well, well done, they protect the moral health of the young generation! This is a real concern for people!”
Since May last year, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) began to operate in the EU, which, among other things, allows Europeans to request data collected from Internet companies from them and even require their complete deletion. Another measure spelled out in the GDPR is the need for parental consent to process data for children under 16 on the Internet.
For this reason, WhatsApp decided to raise the minimum age for registering its users. And, for example, Facebook did not do this – and the EU is not going to apply any penalties to it.
So, DW claims that the decision of WhatsApp has nothing to do with the GDPR and media restrictions in the EU in general, while in fact, internet is being restricted throughout the world, mostly in China, of course, but in other countries that have protests, and so on. The post also alleges that supposed internet restrictions in Russia would also be fine, after all, they do it in Europe.
- Twitter: There is a pension reform in Germany, and it is even worse than the Russian one
В один день с нами пенсионный возраст в ФРГ увеличивают до 67 лет – как для мужчин, так и для женщин. К 2025 году их правительство намерено снизить размер пенсий и увеличить взносы в пенсионный фонд.
Эпоха социальных государств стремительно подходит к концу
— Анна Кисличенко (@AnnaKislichenko) August 29, 2018
“On one day with us, the retirement age in Germany is increased to 67 years – for both men and women. By 2025, their government intends to reduce pensions and increase contributions to the pension fund. The era of social states is rapidly coming to an end”
DW says that the post by Anna Kislichenko makes a few false statements, notably that the retirement age in Germany and Russia was made 67, overnight. DW points that in Germany, the retirement age was increased even earlier – between 2012 and 2017. But, pensions haven’t been lowered, and DW says that there will be no discussions until 2025 (it remains unclear how DW knows ths). So, the “proapganda” is busted!
Regardless, DW attempts to combat supposedly “fake information” and then present this efforts as an example of dangerous “Russian disinformation” are quite obvious attempts at spreading propaganda themselves. This seems to be quite in the line of activities of the Eu VS Disinfo operation run by the East StratCom Task Force. The East StratCom Task Force is a EU-created and EU-funded body designed to spread mainstream propaganda and combat all what goes beyond the mainstream line.
But the authors, not only of the DW article, but also of the supposed propaganda posts (all from 2018) assume that the general public, the users seeing and reading these posts would subject what they see to no scrutiny whatsoever, which is absurd in and of itself. This is also showing of the amounts of interactions that the posts received, around 4,000 for the most popular, which is admittedly an amazing amount of friction.
Yes, social users of social media outlets sometimes make mistakes and mix some dates. However, even in the carefully prepared ‘analysis’, DW barely found something what can really be described as an example of real propaganda or intenational missinformation. This becomes obvious if one compares DW-discovered “fakes” with the mainstream campaign against Syria, including its part about “Assad chemical attacks” (which is collapsing under pressure of real facts, evidence and leaks from Western bodies themselves).
This is, furthermore, quite showing of the current level of professionalism in content creation in MSM, and that mainstream memes such as “US President Donald Trump is an agent of Putin” are truth, both for content creators and users alike, which is equally absurd. The indoctrination into the mainstream narrative is truth, but it is not low effort content such as this that propagates the campaign forward.