The Danish researcher, Thomas Nissen’s book „The Weaponization of Social Media“, which was translated into Estonian 2 years ago, talked about the shocking truth behind many typical Facebook and Twitter users: social media is an assault weapon that we can all use and conversely, were we can all become targets. Unlike democratic countries, where the use of Social media in this manner is unthinkable, the Kremlin is one of the most influential and definitely the one with the most notoriously developed social media weapons. This has been used for example in the USA and French Presidential elections, The Brexit referendum as well as internationally attacking the image of Ukraine. In the last weeks, the Kremlin has set its media attack sites at a new target; the degrading and weakening of Spain.
The world’s largest Spanish language daily newspaper, El Pais published a story last weekend „ The Russian interference machine is fueling the Catalonia crisis“. The story has an analysis, that shows how Kremlin backed social media and international propaganda channel webs that previously supported Trump and Brexit are now dealing with fueling the Catalonia crisis with distribution of false news.
Obviously, the Kremlin is not worried about the future of Catalonia; it is using the growing conflict in Spain for their own purposes. The Russian power authorities’ main interest for inciting the Catalonia crisis is the same as in previous cases: to weaken both the NATO and EU member countries, in other words to weaken those the Kremlin considers as hostile alliances. Examples of the El Pais analysis are very lengthy and describe previously well-known email signatures.
Here are some examples: on the 12th of September the head of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange tweaked Catalonia, the birth of a nation or civil war. “The tweak was shared by 1700 individuals on Twitter and Facebook, which in their particular characteristic style was immediately amplified by Russia Today.
Assange, who initially was defending freedom of speech but later became a collaborator of Kremlin propaganda channels, has now concentrated his efforts on the Catalonia referendum. When typically tweets take several days to become viral, then according to El Paises sources, Assange’s tweets have up to 2000 retweets within the first hours. This refers to the use of bots or fake accounts that are designed to automatically send certain messages and create echo effects. TwitterAudit who says that 59% of the 5000 monitored followers were fake profiles tracks Assange’s followers’ accounts with test analysis. (Assange’s total number of followers is over 405,000.)
Also an interesting fact in that, the same previous email signatures last week were tied into several thousand anonymous followers accounts linked with the Kremlin’s propaganda, based on previous activities, have „incidentally“ forwarded overlapping messages. For example, they are repeating the claim that occurrences in Barcelona are similar to the crackdown on democracy in 1989 China at Tiananmen Square, where several hundred individuals were killed. Hundreds of false accounts, which are permanently engaged in distributing Sputnik, RT and other Kremlin news, have propagated this message.
The Kremlin’s clear interest in the promotion of the Catalonia crisis proves the behaviour of the internal Russian media, which is malicious towards Spain and is based on the principle „ what is worse for Spain, is better for us“. For example in the introduction to his TV show, the premier propagandist for the Kremlin, Dimitri Kisseljov ponders over that the European Union can now themselves finally feel the effects of the „colour revolution“. The television story content is actually quite balanced, giving contributing views of several Catalonia anti-independence counterparts.
We cannot omit a how this topic relates to Estonia: Evelyn Kaldoja wrote in the Postimees last week about a Twitter account @TienesTipex, whose owner claimed to be an Olympic flag bearer and representative in the Catalonia government. This time Antonia Sanches, a self-titled Estonian representative tweaked false news in that Jüri Ratas supports independence for Catalonia. There were thousands spreading the falsehoods. Most of them, however were not part of the Kremlin network but benevolent enthusiasts, because 80,000 @TienesTipex followers are allegedly bot-accounts in the 6000 range.
Additional reading on the topic can be found here.
Pictures: European Union, Catalonia, Spanish and Barcelona flags. Photo: Ivan Mlinaric /Flickr /CC.
Screen shots from the referred tweats in the story