Kremlin Watch Monitor September 5, 2017

Weekly monitor of pro-Kremlin disinformation effort in Europe. We follow best European analysts, best counter-measures and trends.

Weekly Update on the Kremlin’s Disinformation Efforts

According to PoliticoUS Secretary of State Rex Tillerson finally approved $60 million for use by the Global Engagement Center, an inter-agency within the State Department, after initially refusing to accept the funding. For weeks, he has endured increasing pressure from Congress, which allocated $80 million for national efforts to counter propaganda and disinformation campaigns. Mr. Tillerson also gave the green light for a $40 million transfer from the Pentagon to the GEC in order to fight state-sponsored propaganda.

The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab recently published an analysis on how pro-Kremlin social media users and news outlets, together with alt-right platforms, amplified pro-Kremlin narratives about the Charlottesville protests. Soon afterwards, the subjects of the analysis took action against the researchers, The Daily Beast reports. One of the accounts tweeted that the ProPublica website which published the analysis is an “alt-left #HateGroup and #FakeNews site funded by Soros.” The likely goal of the ensuing retweets was to saturate the notifications of their target.

The website of Julia Klöckner, the CDU’s leader in the state of Rhineland Palatinate, seems to have been hacked last week, Politico reports. Her spokesman, as well as the politician herself in a Tweet, stated that the hacking attempts likely came from a Russian server.

EU Digital Commissioner Mariya Gabriel announced last week that she is planning to set up a high-level group of external experts to advise her on “fake news”. In the next three months, she is also planning to hold a public consultation, “a detailed call for feedback on specialised topics, which can often feed into new EU legislative proposals”, Euractiv reports. The goal seems to be to pressure social media companies to take action in order to monitor disinformation posted on their platforms.

Putin’s Champion Award

Our Expert Jury consisting of Jessikka Aro, Peter Kreko, Nerijus Maliukevičius, Anton Shekhovtsov and John Schindler, regularly votes on the dangerousness of several candidates you can nominate via e-mail or Twitter.

The 18th Putin’s Champion Award Recipient is:

University of Debrecen

For its lack of intellectual integrity given its award of honorary membership to Vladimir Putin.

Istvan, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Expert Jury ranked their Putin-supportive job with


(out of 5) mark.

The rating signals how much the recipient contributed to the interest of the Putin’s aggressive regime. It is calculated as an average of ratings assessed by the Expert Jury of this Award.

You can find more details about the award and the former recipients here.

Kremlin Watch Reading Suggestion


Prepared by the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence

Read the full study here.

The NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence published the first issue of Robotrolling, a publication dedicated to the activities of automated bots on social media. In the inaugural edition, they deal specifically with Twitter activities connected to NATO and four host countries of NATO troops – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland – in the period between March and August 2017, in both the Russian and English language. The study shows that 70% of accounts active in Russian on the given subject were automated. In the English language sphere, the number of automated accounts was smaller (28%), but was responsible for a relatively large amount of content.

How do Russian Twitter-bots operate? They are often distinguished by high levels of coordination, in contrast to the English-language accounts, which mostly consist of lone actors. Among the four host countries in question, Estonia has been targeted most frequently by Twitter-bots, while Poland and Lithuania the least. Most often, the bots talk to other bots, promoting third party content or incrementally building more believable profiles. Most commonly, they copy-and-paste headlines from online media outlets or serve as news aggregators.

Good Old Soviet Joke

Man on Red Square shouts, ‘Brezhnev is an idiot!’ He gets sentenced to 15 years: five years for insulting the Soviet leader, and 10 years for betraying a state secret.

Euroatlantic experts on disinformation warfare

A new documentary produced by StopFake tracks the origins of “fake news” all the way to World War II. It includes experts like Simon Ostrovsky (VICE News), Eliot Higgins (Bellingcat), Edward Lucas (The Economist), Gregory Asmolov (London School of Economics) and Alastair Reid (First Draft).

For Politico, J.M. Berger highlights the findings of Hamilton 68, an interactive dashboard that monitors near-real-time outputs of the Kremlin’s influence operations on Twitter, focusing on pro-Kremlin and alt-right content.

In the World Affairs Journal, Hannah Thoburn highlights the importance of educational media programs for children in the Russian language, similar to the Laboratory of Miracles broadcast in Latvia. This show focuses on popular science for kids and, if proven successful, might also be exported to other post-Soviet countries.

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