Monday, 5 January 2015

Russian propaganda (cyber-warfare?) example on twitter

Russia has been accused of funding and propagandising anti-fracking campaigns in the West1, 2. If the West can do it to Russia3, expect Russia to fight back. Natural gas is a famous Russian export but many energy exports (gas, oil, coal, nuclear power) are important to the Russian economy. The recent fall in the price of oil even precipitated an economic crisis there. Preventing fracking in Europe is a good way to keep natural gas prices high. They've already had a lot of success in that area.

Given they have the 'resources' in place, it seems obvious to turn against nuclear power too. One such example is their recent twitter campaign, using the hashtags #FukushimaAgain #Chernobyl2015. It's already been noted that the 'accident' to the reactor in the Ukraine was an incident not an accident4. Russian media sources are systematically misreporting the events in Ukraine, and at Ukraine nuclear reactors too5. As I write, I note that ans nuclear cafe is down. Can that be due to Russian cyber-warfare too? Unlikely, it's back up and it was giving a 502 server error. Nevertheless, who'd put anything past these people?

These are just the first 10 accounts I looked at tweeting those hashtags. I've no idea how many more there are of them.

These accounts don't, at first, look fake. A detailed investigation shows otherwise: they are hijacked or fake:

  • most of the accounts only began tweeting within the last few weeks
  • the accounts have a few hundred tweets each, often made very recently
  • they rarely, if ever, tweet to anyone else
  • they don't engage anyone in a conversation
  • many of the innocent looking tweets are garbage:
    • common quotes from famous people e.g.:
    • 'witty', or 'pseudo-intellectual' observations. e.g.:
  • here's an example of a tweet that belongs to a conversation. A message to a friend. Who might that be?:
  • tweets are often made with very short time intervals between them - indicating the person has nothing better to do than, essentially, repeat the same tweet. More like it's a bot using random time intervals.
  • tweets are likely to be gender neutral, geographically neutral. The bot doesn't know whether it's pretending to be male/female or whatever. The more specific the tweet, the more trouble a programmer must endure to fake it.

For more on fake twitter accounts see: 6

References

  1. NATO Chief: Putin Behind Anti-Fracking Campaigns
  2. Russia’s Quiet War Against European Fracking
  3. Russia says 'spies' work in foreign NGOs
  4. Reporting an Incident as an Accident
  5. Ukraine Nuclear Plants - Resources and Information
  6. 11 Easy Ways To Spot a Fake Twitter Account