Sayyara Mammadova: How Kremlin-affiliated Telegram channels spread disinformation worldwide

31 March 2023. “Fifty-six pro-Kremlin Telegram channels, divided into three networks of similarly named accounts are spreading pro-Kremlin narratives to users worldwide, including in Europe, Asia, South America, and the Middle East. The channels purport to share ‘truthful’ information, but are actually conduits that help pro-Kremlin narratives reach people in other languages.” This is one of the findings of a comprehensive study by Azerbaijani journalist, and research assistant at Atlantic Council’s DFRLab Sayyara Mammadova, who participated in M100YEJ last year, and her colleague resident fellow at Atlantic Council’s DFRLab Nika Aleksejeva.

“A language assessment revealed that the channels’ content utilized both machine and human translations. Open-source analysis also revealed that one network is connected to a Kremlin-affiliated voluntary military training program called NVP ROKOT.”
The investigation, the authors write, “sheds light on how pro-Kremlin Telegram channels try to reach users in other languages globally. Yet their simplistic approach, combined with a lack of obfuscation, suggests that the network operators are not sophisticated or well-resourced. The three networks of Telegram channels uncovered by the DFRLab actively spread Kremlin propaganda and disinformation about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to a global audience. Despite the large number of countries the channels targeted globally, the number of subscribers, average readership of posts, and content quality suggest that the networks have limited resources, which potentially explains their call-outs for translation assistance. Further research will hopeful shed more light on country-specific targeting on Telegram, as well as local Telegram influencers that amplify pro-Kremlin propaganda.”
The full study, with numerous illustrations and screenshots, is available here.