NATO STRATCOMCOE publishes new Russia 'Robotrolling' report

The Rīga-based NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence (STRATCOMCOE) has a new version of its regular 'Robotrolling' reports on malicious online activity available.

"In this edition of Robotrolling, we trace messaging about the build-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Since the illegal annexation of Crimea, there has been an expectation that kinetic activity would be preceded by large-scale information activities. We assess that the period from August 2021 to 20 February 2022 saw an increase in elite statements (and troop movements) unmatched by fake pro-Kremlin social media activity," says a summary of the research.

It contains many interesting observations, such as:

"The official Russian communication about the war was characterised by panic and improvisation, not careful planning. In the first days of the war, some military communities posted about tanks marked with the symbol Z. Within two days, it became the main mobilising idea of the invasion. Anecdotal reports claimed that Kremlin propagandists despaired at the choice, as the symbol had no legacy or prior meaning."

As far as Latvia is concerned, the report says:

"The most significant inauthentic activity revolved around the Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs warning of “incidents” between Russia and NATO troops during the upcoming “Zapad” military exercises. The majority of posts about this statement came from bot accounts. Similarly, bot messaging spiked on 29 November, when Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš called on the EU and NATO to signal clear consequences to Russia if it escalated tensions with Ukraine. On VKontakte, bot messaging was highest concerning the opening of a NATO military airfield in Latvia on 24 October."

The full report is available to download and read online.

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