Disinformation Eastern Europe Europe & Eurasia Internet Ukraine
Article February 24, 2020

Anonymous Ukrainian Telegram channels serve as gateways to fringe media

By Roman Osadchuk

DFRLab analysis determined that allegations against a former Ukrainian MP on anonymous Telegram channels made way to fringe media and other MPs’ Telegram channels,  illustrating how anonymous Telegram channels hosting sensitive kompromat — compromising material used to sabotage a political opponent — can serve as a “gateway” to fringe media sources with a wider audience.

A claim that originated on an anonymous Telegram channel was repackaged, with minor edits, as a “news story” on a fringe media site. The story then made its way through the Ukrainian fringe media ecosystem, as multiple websites republished it but failed to attribute it to its true source, instead linking to the fringe site that obtained the story secondhand from Telegram. Despite receiving wide distribution among fringe media, however, the story failed to gain any engagement.

Non-traditional outlets, such as Telegram channels and aggregates, now constitute a significant portion of Ukraine’s media ecosystem. Often shielded by anonymity, these outlets carry added incentives to amplify, and sometimes wholly fabricate, sensational news claims targeting individuals for potential monetary gain.

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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.