“War on Fakes“ claims to be a “fact-checking“ news channel while It’s actually spreading disinformation to hundreds of thousands of followers
- “War on Fakes“ has built up 700,000 followers in a couple of weeks using social media promotions and the support of the Kremlin Communication channels to spread disinformation about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- The channel was cited by major Russian outlets, government officials, and journalists.
- The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab found multiple instances of disinformation.
A website called “War on Fakes“ with a telegram channel with over 700,000 followers is spreading disinformation about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine under the guise of providing “objective information“ and fact-checking fake news. Its influence extends beyond the platform, with major Russian publications, government officials, and journalists citing the page’s posts.
The “War on Fakes“ was created on March 1st, 2022, while the Telegram account, “War on Fakes,“ was created on February 24, the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation“ and troops began invading Ukraine. The page is rife with disinformation, according to The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which studies digital extremism and published a report examining the channel.
The telegram channel appears to be part of the broader information war that has developed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin has paid Russian TikTok influencers to push propaganda, according to a Vice News investigation, while ProPublica found that fake Russian fact check videos had been viewed over a million times on Telegram.
“War on Fakes“ website claims to provide “ objective publications“ to make citizens less fearful and uncertain about what is happening. “Fact-checking“ articles are published in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic. However, what is striking is that Russian, of all languages, is missing from this website. The aim, obviously, is to reach an international audience. The original Russian version of this website and the associated Telegram account are older, according to research by the Atlantic Council’s DFRLab.
Both the Russian and English websites and the Telegram accounts are being heavily promoted on social media. For example, Russian television station RT quoted “War on Fakes“ in a Telegram post on February 27.
Given that this channel itself has hundreds of thousands of followers, it is likely that much of the growth of “War on Fakes“ is due to their promotion, and that of other accounts. Additionally, Russian embassies, like the one in France, have also featured it on their social media accounts, including Twitter.
The ploy of the website operators seems sophisticated: The authors debunk what they claim to be “false claims”, including those from the Ukrainian side. Then Russian propaganda is used to provide background for the fact checks according to the Kremlin narrative.
WHO RUNS “WAR ON FAKES“
So who runs “War on Fakes“? To find out who’s behind it, DW ran it through the who.is website. It revealed that the website was launched only very recently, on March 1, and focuses only on the war between Russia and Ukraine. The name of the operator is hidden, but an address in Moscow is given as a contact option. However, this address only leads to the company that registered the page.
The given phone number turns out to be a popular scam number previously used in 2019 to rip off people financially. An analysis of the website using Scamadviser also shows that the website should be treated with caution. In a ranking up to 100 trust points, “War on Fakes“ scores a single point.
There is no information on the site itself, nor does research reveal who these “journalists“ and “fact-checkers“ are who are publishing articles on the site and its corresponding Telegram accounts.
At this point, it cannot be said with any certainty who is behind “War on Fakes.“ But its sudden appearance, rapid growth, and widespread support from state-run Russian media raise questions about its origins and influence.
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