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Home / World / Russia is behind the spread of coronavirus misinformation, US officials say

Russia is behind the spread of coronavirus misinformation, US officials say



Russia’s intelligence services are using three English-language websites to spread misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic in an attempt to exploit the crisis America is trying to contain ahead of the November presidential election, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

Two Russians in senior positions in Moscow’s military intelligence service, known as the GRU, have been blamed for disinformation efforts that have reached American and other Western audiences, U.S. government officials said. They spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak in public.

The information had previously been classified, but officials said it had been reduced so that they could discuss it more freely. Officials said they were doing so now to raise concerns about specific websites and expose what they said was a clear link between the sites and Russian intelligence.

From late May to early July, according to one official, websites published on Tuesday published about 1

50 articles on the response to the pandemic, including coverage aimed at either reinforcing Russia or humiliating the United States.

Among the headlines that caught the attention of US officials were the Russian counterpart COVID-19, which is helping America bring the Detente case, which suggested that Russia had provided urgent and substantial US assistance in the fight against the pandemic, and Beijing. believes that COVID-19 is a biological weapon, ”which reinforced Chinese claims.

Disclosure occurs when the spread of misinformation, including from Russia, becomes a matter of urgent concern for the November presidential election. U.S. officials are seeking to avoid a repeat of the 2016 contest, when Russia launched a secret social media campaign to divide American public opinion and favor then-candidate Donald Trump over Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. The U.S. government’s counterintelligence department warned in a rare public statement Friday that Russia would continue to use Internet trolls to achieve its goals.

Politics aside, the twin crises that have engulfed the United States and much of the world — pandemics and racial relations and protests — have offered fertile ground for misinformation or outright lies. Trump has come under scrutiny for misinformation about a failed coronavirus drug in a video taken on Twitter and Facebook.

Officials have described Russia’s disinformation as part of a constant and persistent effort to promote false narratives and cause confusion. They did not say whether the efforts behind these websites were directly linked to the November election, although some publications appear to be demeaning Trump’s Democratic candidate Joe Biden, and do call for Russia’s efforts in 2016 to ignite racial relations in America and to accuse US politicians of corruption.

Although US officials had previously warned of the spread of pandemic misinformation, they went further on Tuesday, highlighting a specific news agency registered in Russia, InfoRos and which operates on a number of websites – InfoRos.ru, Infobrics.org and OneWorld. press – who used the pandemic to promote anti-Western goals and spread misinformation.

The email to InfoRos was not immediately returned on Tuesday.

The sites advertise their stories in a subtle but insidious effort that US officials liken to money laundering, where stories in well-written English – and often pro-Russian and anti-American – circulate through other news sources to hide their origins and promote legitimacy.

The sites are also amplifying stories from other places, government officials said.

In addition to the coronavirus, there is also a focus on America, global politics and current affairs.

Tuesday’s headline on InfoRos.ru about the riots of major American cities read “Chaos in the Blue Cities”, accompanying a story that complained about how New Yorkers who grew up with a harsh approach to the crimes of mayors Rudolf W. Giuliani and Michael R. Bloomberg “must adapt to life in urban areas with high crime.”

Another story titled “Ukrainian Trap for Biden” and claimed that “Ukrainegate” – a reference to stories related to Hunter Biden’s son’s former ties to Ukraine’s gas company – “continues to unfold with renewed vigor.”

Two people who also held leadership roles in InfoRos, identified on Tuesday by Denis Valeryevich Tyurin and Alexander Gennadyevich Starunsky, had previously served in the GRU’s military-psychological intelligence unit and maintained deep contacts there, officials said.

InfoRos and United World’s ties to the Russian state have attracted the attention of European disinformation analysts in the past.

In 2019, a working group of the European Union, which studies disinformation campaigns, defined “World” as “a new addition to the pantheon of Moscow disinformation points.” The expert group noted that the content of the “United World” often determines Russia’s agenda in matters, including the war in Syria.

A report released last month by the second Brussels-based non-governmental organization, EU DisinfoLab, examined the links between InfoRos and One World and Russian military intelligence. Researchers have found technical tips linking their websites to Russia and identified some financial links between InfoRos and the government.

“InfoRos is developing in a shady gray area, where regular information activities are mixed with more contradictory actions, which are quite possibly related to the information operations of the Russian state,” the report’s authors concluded.

On its English-language Facebook page, InfoRos describes itself as “a news agency: the world through Russia’s eyes.”




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