June 6, 2023

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Operation Doppelganger, Russia clones European media to spread false news

Anonymous people based in Russia have been conducting a disinformation operation since May 2022 aimed at spreading fake articles, videos and polls in Europe, using ‘copies’ of at least 17 European media outlets, including Bild, The Guardian and Rbc Ukraine. The operation, called Doppelganger, was revealed by Eu Disinfo Lab, a Brussels-based NGO, in a report published today. The perpetrators of the deal bought dozens of Internet domains with names similar to the original media names, copying their design.

False information is then disseminated using social media in particular (the process is still ongoing), with some main goals: portraying Ukraine as a corrupt and failed state, as well as being Nazi; denial of the Busha massacre; Spreading concerns about the impact of sanctions against Russia on the lives of Germans, Italians, Latvians, French and British. The survey was conducted using information from open sources, and was conducted in cooperation with the Swedish non-profit Qaryom Media Foundation.

The disinformation process uses fairly sophisticated techniques, including geo-blocking the user and producing fake videos that are attributed to original media. The Disinfo Lab has notified the targeted media so they can take countermeasures. The perpetrator has not been identified, but “several elements”, according to the Eu Disinfo lab, indicate the involvement of actors based in Russia.

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