Wed, Feb 26, 2020

Anonymous pro-Russian Telegram channels target protests in Belarus

Article by Givi Gigitashvili

Belarus Disinformation Internet Russia

The DFRLab found that amid ongoing economic integration talks between Russia and Belarus, anonymous Telegram channels published unsupported claims, and a pro-Kremlin narrative that protests in Belarus against the country’s plan for further integration with Russia were organized and controlled by the Belarusian government.

The DFRLab identified eight public Telegram channels that posted unsubstantiated claims about the protests in Belarus: Trikatazh, Bulba Prestolov, BeloRusski Dialog, Kompromat Belarus, Beloruskii Gambit, Belarusskii Insaider, Vostochnoe Pritvorstvo, and BY-News. Four of these public channels featured posts that were among the top 10 most viewed in the country for 2019, according to a Telegram Analytics search. They also had a clear agenda of promoting deeper integration between Belarus and Russia and criticizing the Belarusian government.

Before the appearance of Belarusian Telegram channels, pro-Russian disinformation narratives about the country were mainly disseminated through Russian Telegram channels that primarily targeted domestic Russian audiences. This started to change, however, at the end of 2018, as Belarusian channels started to emerge that disseminated the same narratives but targeted a Belarusian audience. The spread of disinformation through pro-Russian anonymous Telegram channels represents a growing concern for Belarusian civil society and media observers.

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The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) has operationalized the study of disinformation by exposing falsehoods and fake news, documenting human rights abuses, and building digital resilience worldwide.