The spread of Russian disinformation about the war in Ukraine was fueled by the “dismantling of Twitter’s safety standards” following right-wing billionaire Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform.
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Although the largest social media companies pledged to voluntarily curb Russian disinformation following the country’s invasion of Ukraine last year, a lot of the Kremlin’s propaganda still reached an audience of tens of millions of people, a new European Union (EU) study found.
This year, the spread of this disinformation was fueled by the “dismantling of Twitter’s safety standards” following right-wing billionaire Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform, according to the document.
In fact, had the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) been in place already, Twitter would have violated it, the study found. Fortunately for Musk, the new law meant to reduce the dissemination of misinformation and other toxic online content only went into effect last week.
However, the platform is not alone in failing to prevent Russian propaganda from being widely spread in the EU and beyond.
“During the first year of Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine, social media companies enabled the Kremlin to run a large-scale disinformation campaign targeting the European Union and its allies, reaching an aggregate audience of at least 165 million and generating at least 16 billion views,” the study found.
The EU researchers also determined that the audience and reach of Russian-aligned social media accounts increased throughout 2022.
“These circumstances raise questions not only about European Union defenses against Russia’s information warfare but also about the integrity of the European election in June of 2024,” the document stated.
At least Europe has some mechanisms to fight propaganda.
“The rules provided by the DSA hold great potential to reign in Kremlin disinformation campaigns and other state-sponsored attacks on the democratic integrity and fundamental rights,” the document said. “But they must be applied quickly and effectively in order to help mitigate these coordinated attacks on European democracy.”
The US, however, does not.
And, if Europe is worried about its election integrity, then the US, where Russian interference played a major role in 2016 already, should be mortified.
The EU noted that the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign is a key part of Russia’s military agenda and jeopardizes “public security, fundamental rights and electoral processes inside the European Union.”
Even more troublingly, President Vladimir Putin’s regime relies not only on its propaganda to undermine Western democracies but also on a wide range of other weapons.
“The Kremlin’s operations on online platforms often build on other inflammatory or deceptive content, and a range of malign behaviors designed to silence opponents and suppress the truth about the war in Ukraine,” the study found.
And, as the past few years have shown, large segments of the US public are very susceptible to just this kind of propaganda.
Therefore, while this report is about the EU and Russia’s misinformation about the Ukraine, it does not bode well for the 2024 election in the US.