Propaganda in February


February was the most active month on influencing issues in the last couple of months. Several studies and articles on Russian influence activities were published. Several social media channels took steps to improve the quality of their content and factors affecting the country in regards to the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia was discussed more often.

The Foreign Intelligence Service published their yearbook

The 68 pages of the yearbook focused on the most important topics affecting Estonia, of which the majority were Russian activities. The summary of the media coverage was voluminous. Articles and news were published by both Estonian and foreign publications and extra special attention was given by the Russian media to the material.

Youtube has started flagging the videos of news channels

The technical news portal, Novator has published news on how Youtube is marking the content of publicly funded media.

Most of all, the new marking system will affect the content of the Youtube channel, Russia Today (RT). RT has about 20 different channels with a combined viewership of over five billion and is associated with the Kremlin propaganda machine. According to US officials, the channel is tied into the influencing of the 2016 Presidential elections.

 Russia is building a unified information centre

In February, Jaanus Piirsalu wrote a sizable story in Postimees about the plan for the creation of a unified Information Centre in Russia. The center would bring together the existing individual units and increase the capacity and speed of response.

In view of the effectiveness of information operations, Manoilo claims that it is very important for the Center’s command structures to be as short as possible with little bureaucracy. Therefore, it is not out of the question that the center would be created to be directly under the leadership of the Russian President or at the very least directly under the head of a security related agency.

Twitter begins restricting mass mailings

Delfi mediates Reuter’s news, after which the social media environment of Twitter has started to restrict mass mailings containing the same content.

Twitter let it be known that it would prevent users from using multiple accounts with identical postings – a tactic that for example Russian internet trolls and serial spammers use to spread fake news, reported Reuters.

Twitter added that it does not allow people to use software that allows them to do multiple things at once, such as forwarding tweets or tracking them.

The concept of Russophobia during the course to victory

The Atlantic Council’s Digital Research Laboratory took note of the use of the concept of Russo phobia in messages from the Russian state and in media under the influence of the Kremlin. The study highlighted the rapid growth of the term from 2013 onwards.

If in 2013 the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs used the phrase „Russo phobia“ less then ten times during the year, then in 2017 this term has already been used more than 50 times.

Putin’s „cook“ is after social media

Bloomberg released a statement written by USA Special Prosecutor, Robert Mueller based on the controversy about Vladimir Putin’s close ally, Jevgeni Prigožin who has been running campaigns in various social media environments. Thirteen Russian citizens and 3 companies were charged. The notorious troll farms of St. Petersburg also allegedly belong to Prigožin.

Interview with a former Petersburg factory troll

The Postimees published an interview that appeared in Deutsche Welles with a journalist, Ljudmilla Savtšuk who worked at a Petersburg troll factory. Savtšuk describes the work in the troll factory as follows: „ When you come to work, the day’s tasks are already waiting on the computer.  Every commentator is given a list of daily activities.  USA- related issues are always among the top three or top five –always.“

Karmo Tüür on the green men

Columnist Karmo Tüür writes in Postimees a long story about the Kremlin’s „Green men“ who allegedly are not in war theatres but whose dead bodies Russia wants to remove from the battlefield.

Tüür writes: „The use of the Pskov special forces (and the Buryatia tank units etc.) as „Green men“ in the hijacking of Crimea and sending them down range in Eastern Ukraine is an open secret. The new definition of the Russian military lock is written with the blood of these young men – the overall general term has become «их там нет».  In other words; all of those that are not there. They were not in Crimea, nor in Donbass and now not in Syria.

They are not there, but their corpses are. It is alleged that there are in special hospitals in Moscow and Petersburg those that were lucky enough to be gotten out under the name „goods 300“ in other words the wounded. There are widows, who talk to cameras about their sad stories. There are graves, where people who have attempted to find about the remains, have been treated brutally, regardless of their status.

Football, a cultural unifier as well as disseminator

The February Soccernet featured Indrek Schwede’s story on the role of football as a cultural unifier as well as a disseminator. He writes: „The image of a former premier sport changed in the seventies and eighties of the last century where in general Estonians distanced them selves from football. The general folk considered it a Russian or Rusky sport. This expression was disparaging, confirmed, and deepened the foreign stature and despondency of football“

 Fake news, it’s all a game

The Technology News Portal Novator published a study by the researchers at the University of Cambridge on the creation, content and distribution of fake news. To illustrate the results of the survey, scientists created the „best“ for gathering fake news.

The game is lots of fun and shows the spread of fake news very well.

February in Russian media

February topics associated with Estonia were centered mostly on the scandal related to the Defence Forces marching songs.

Equally spacious coverage was also given to a small bus that broke through the ice in Pärnu, the Foreign Intelligence Agencies yearbook, the exchange of individuals accused of espionage at Narva’s Sõpruse bridge and the phrase „complicated neighbour“ in the President’s speech.

The Russian media also thoroughly covered the protest action organized on Independence Day of Latvia.

Photo: screenshots from and the game environment, graphics DFRLab