Enlarge image

Broken TV in Ukraine;

Russia good, USA bad

Photo: Victoria Kotlyarchuk / Getty Images / iStockphoto

On January 12th of this year, “Canten Kluver” was still very active on X, formerly Twitter.

»It is time to end the bloodshed and begin a dialogue.

This is the only way we can save the Ukrainian and German economies!”

Below you can see an image that was apparently created with an image generator, more like a caricature of Volodymyr Zelensky with blood on his face.

The link that the posting also contains is now dead, the post is only available in an archive.

The “Canten Kluver” account no longer exists either.

He may have been among the 50,000 fake user accounts deleted by X after the Foreign Ministry uncovered a major digital disinformation and propaganda campaign from Russia - SPIEGEL reported on January 26th.

Deleting accounts is not enough

“Herminia,” on the other hand, is still there, or better: already back.

It belongs to the next wave from the same source: the fact that Russian propaganda accounts were created en masse does not seem to impress the operators.

Kelly Cowan and Dee Ramee, both of whom live in the USA, have been monitoring Russian and other disinformation networks in their free time as “dTeam” for years.

They were kind enough to share their datasets with my project colleagues and me.

And they show: deleting tens of thousands of accounts is not enough.

A large part of it is disposable goods; regular renewal is obviously part of the concept.

“Herminia” doesn’t follow anyone on X and doesn’t have any followers herself.

But if “Kathleen,” who also doesn’t follow anyone and has a single follower, spreads propaganda content, then “Herminia” is one of the 158 accounts that help with a retweet.

That's not very plausible, but it doesn't matter for the mechanism.

Fake SPIEGEL page, love for AfD and Wagenknecht

The piece of propaganda content in this case is a particularly complex one: it is an article that at first glance looks as if it were on SPIEGEL.de, with all the details of the layout - only if you look closely will you notice that the domain is actually Spiegel.ltd is.

The article shows a black and white picture, framed with graphic extras, of former Brigadier General Erich Vad, who often attracts attention with his strong theses about Russia's war (the article linked here is real).

SPIEGEL seems to benevolently reflecting Vad's stance on Russia's campaign in the fake article, which sounds somewhat clumsy.

At the same time, Russia's paladins are being praised in the German parliament: "Proponents of peace talks" in German politics are "usually those who are described by the traffic light coalition as radicals and extremists, such as the AfD.

Sahra Wagenknecht also advocates a diplomatic solution to the conflict."

Redirection to “SPIEGEL”

The pro-Russian propaganda text under the headline “Virus of Realism Infiltrates Germany” never appeared in SPIEGEL, of course, but if you don’t look closely you won’t notice.

The buttons for social media posts or copying the link work.

What is striking is that there is still a symbol for the SPIEGEL forum, which no longer existed in this form on the supposed publication date - February 14th.

Anyone who links to the SPIEGEL logo or a menu item will simply be redirected to the real SPIEGEL website.

The fake website is located on a server in the USA (which doesn't mean anything, because anyone can buy a place on a server there), and all information about the operators is hidden behind anonymization services.

AfD fans

Herminia is very active.

In a single day in February, she responded to about 30 tweets from a variety of other accounts.

Some of them are full of right-wing extremist content, many have at least a few dozen followers.

Some of these accounts with right-wing radical content look very much like propaganda accounts operated from Russia.

Many of them are big fans of the AfD and pass on content from AfD accounts to their own audience - their own comments are often characterized by very strange wording.

Others are US accounts from the far right - whether real or fake is often impossible to tell.

Herminia also responds to tweets from people who actually write primarily about TV shows, or - in English - about football, and those who, according to their tweets, are more left-wing.

Still others are accounts that advertise obscure cryptocurrencies in replies to Elon Musk's tweets.

Many links are long dead

Herminia is not selective about where she gets the reach for the content she is trying to bring to the people: “Europe must break away from NATO to ensure its own security,” or “The fact that Kiev urgently needs resources , should be a wake-up call for the USA."

Or: “Zelensky must resign so that Ukraine can make peace with Russia.”

Many of the links are now dead. Some, like the fake SPIEGEL article mentioned above, are still there.

Some also refer to “real” or pro-Russian, right-wing extremist or conspiracy ideology websites that are operated from Russia for propaganda purposes.

Herminia draws from a huge swamp, she shovels content into the even bigger swamp that X has become under Elon Musk.

75 percent fake traffic

The fact that In the context of the Super Bowl,

At TikTok it was only 2.5 percent, at Facebook 2 percent and at Instagram less than one percent.

The company's boss told Mashable that he was "amazed": "I've never, ever, ever seen anything even remotely similar."

Putin's troll armies and propaganda mercenaries appear, unfortunately, undefeated.

At X they are particularly visible.

Some have profile pictures with “Bored Apes”, some accounts seem to be run by young Asian women, some post in several languages ​​at the same time.

And almost all of them tell the same stories: Russia good, USA bad, Ukraine either weak, corrupt or criminal, Germany on the verge of collapse, only AfD, Wagenknecht and love for Moscow can save us.

Or in the USA, Donald Trump.

Countless clones are at work

Herminia has a clear role: she spreads stuff that other accounts post.

It's obviously a disposable account, because even a cursory glance is enough to see that something is wrong.

But many who see Herminia's tweets probably won't risk this cursory look - but the content she reinforces will.

Herminia and her countless clones have the obvious purpose of creating the impression that there are a lot of people out there who are fully aligned with Russia and for whom Tucker Carlson is a hero: “We live in a dictatorship and Tucker Carlson is one of the few who have the courage to say it."


Christian Stöcker

Men who burn the world

Publisher: Ullstein

Number of pages: 336

Publisher: Ullstein

Number of pages: 336

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Carlson, Vad, the AfD, Sahra Wagenknecht – whoever is suitable for pro-Russian propaganda or spreads it themselves is welcome as a topic and content.

The AfD in particular undoubtedly benefits enormously from the free advertising for itself and its content - and, as is well known, the sympathies go in both directions.

Social cards from AI

Sometimes the masters of the bots simply make something up – that Leonardo di Caprio said “The Ukrainian president is a drug-addicted comedian.

“Europe is going bankrupt before our eyes,” for example.

Or that a German fashion designer, whose fashion is also sold in Ukraine, said: "I won't be a prophet if I say that Ukraine will turn into a big criminal state." So-called social cards with real or AI fake ones Photos of celebrities, including German directors or actors, and such made-up quotes were a standard feature of a previous wave from the same source.

Even though the Foreign Office seems to have just ensured that tens of thousands of such fake accounts and probably many of the fake websites were deleted, the propagandists from St. Petersburg and Moscow continue undaunted.

They continue to take up every topic that seems likely to sow discord in Germany.

For example, the farmers' protests: There are even fake websites about supposedly bankrupt farmers.

And they strongly support the AfD, right-wing radical narratives and Sahra Wagenknecht.

If you see someone on social media who is overly pro-Russia or German-apocalyptic, it may well be just a Russian advertising campaign.