Pro-Kremlin Twitter Network Takes Aim at Ukraine and COVID-19
Twitter suspended a network of accounts that coordinated to promote narratives around the coronavirus pandemic, and to amplify a pro-Russian news site ahead of the invasion of Ukraine.
On August 24, 2022, Twitter shared 15 datasets of information operations it identified and removed from the platform with researchers in the Twitter Moderation Research Consortium for independent analysis. One of the networks included accounts of a well-known Kremlin-linked journalism platform, NewsFront. The network, which was suspended under Twitter’s Platform Manipulation and Spam Policy, also included smaller pro-Kremlin news sites. The takedown featured accounts associated with these news platforms, as well as fake persona accounts engaged in coordinated behavior to boost specific tweets and articles.
The suspended network consisted of 38 accounts active predominantly from 2013 to 2020, with a small upsurge of activity in January and February 2022, just prior to Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Different parts of the network appear to have been suspended on different dates, with the earliest inactive in 2016. According to Twitter, the presumptive countries of origin for the accounts in the network were Russia, Ukraine, and the U.S.
Following our analysis of the tweets, accounts, and the timeframe of their activity, we were able to identify four clusters:
NewsFront accounts sharing articles in Russian, German and Serbian
Accounts amplifying pro-Kremlin narratives surrounding the pretext of the invasion of Ukraine
Accounts coordinating to spread rumors around COVID-19
A small group of accounts focusing on regional issues in Ukraine
The linked report outlines the extent and scope of the pro-Kremlin network, identifying narratives across multiple languages.