Propastop has found dozens of videos from the Youtube environment that are trying to show Estonia in a negative light and spread the Kremlin’s propaganda talking points. These videos have received hundreds of thousands of views.
To illustrate the nature of this type of propaganda video, we have highlighted the background of creating and distributing a particular video.
The video chosen as an example is based on an event in July of last year, when an aircraft with Russian President Vladimir Putin on board, crossed into Estonian airspace by Vaindloo Island. The propaganda video attempts to convey a foolish approach, dismissing Estonia’s announcements of breaches of Estonian airspace as Russophobic fiction, which was made in an attempt to bamboozle money from its Western allies.
How is the video made?
These videos are based on text-based news articles on some Russian portals. This specific video is based on an article published in topnewsrussia.ru.
An audio file is made from the text of the article using a Russian-language text synthesizer. „Robot announcers“ allow generation of audio files quickly without involving real people. Text synthesizers are freely available online, for example, here.
Photographs found on the internet cover the sound created by the robot: pictures of the Estonian flag, Vaindloo, Putin’s plane. The images that Google search first displays are selected.
As you can see, the video is created with extremely simple tools. Creating robotic propaganda videos does not require a large team, probably a single person can do it on their computer in just a few hours.
Who made the video?
The video was originally published on the Youtube channel called News 7. The name and header give the impression that it is a serious TV channel with a reliable Western media source.
In reality, there is no such TV channel and News 7 simply imitates a real TV channel. The Youtube account is not affiliated with any person, it is only known that the channel was created in Russia in 2016. The channel lacks contacts, references to any organization or social media accounts.
At the same time, the anonymous mimic channel creates about five propaganda videos every day. Some of them relate to Estonia and the Baltic States, others to Ukraine or Europe. All of them carry the Kremlin’s propaganda messages. All together News 7 has created over 1800 of these types of videos.
News 7 collects donations to support its activities, but you do not see which organization the money goes to. The channel also receives income from advertising. In April, nearly $5000 USD was earned from advertising to the viewers by the propaganda videos.
How is the video circulated?
Despite the simple structure of the video, it has become quite widespread. It has been viewed more than 780,000 times on Youtube. This is divided into more than fifty Russian blogs, video sharing sites and Russia-related social media accounts. Part of the network seems to have been created to spread this type of propaganda videos in the Russian-language information space.
This video is not an exception: all propaganda news videos on News 7 are widely shared. In its total history, this Youtube channel has received 123 million views.
In addition, News 7 is only one of the Youtube channels that deals with the creation and distribution of propaganda videos. Propastop has found a dozen, but probably there many more. Many are related to specific people or organizations, but some are just as impersonal as News 7. All of them contribute to the fact that the Russian-language media space displays many moving pictures with emotional propaganda messages.
Can video propaganda be stopped from being distributed?
There are two simple ways to limit the distribution of similar videos. The first is for Estonian companies to stop advertising on these channels. Another way is to confirm that the fact that the photos used in the videos are likely being used without the permissions of the authors. If you report a copyright infringement to Youtube, the video will no longer be shown in this venue and the channels activities will be restricted.
Pictured: screenshots of the materials referred to in the story.