Russian disinformation spreads via Telegram


Russian intelligence agencies have started using Telegram to recruit petty criminals to carry out sabotage in European capitals and to undermine support for Ukraine by spreading disinformation, Bloomberg reported on May 28.

European officials are outraged by Telegram's lack of cooperation with them. The fight against fake news has become a priority ahead of the June elections across the continent. Despite their regulatory influence on online information, they are virtually powerless to control Telegram.

“Disinformation is spreading on Telegram openly and completely uncontrollably,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told Bloomberg.

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"Requests to remove dangerous content often go unanswered."

“We know that other member states are facing similar problems,” Kallas said.

Bloomberg reports that a typical Russian propaganda campaign relies on several online technologies, including posts on social media, articles in state media, fabricated news mimicking legitimate websites, and anonymous comments on real websites.

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Telegram functions as a “central node in this system,” used by propaganda groups to distribute their content in active social communities to reach a wider audience, according to the agency.

The EU's internal assessment indicates that the main topics of Russian disinformation are the war against Ukraine, conflict in the Middle East, immigration, climate change, and the upcoming European Parliament elections.

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The number of posts on these topics from unverified sources on all platforms has more than doubled since the beginning of May, compared to the beginning of the year, when up to 20,000 such stories were published daily.

Potential Telegram ban in Ukraine

The Ukrainian Parliament registered a bill titled "On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine Regarding the Regulation of Information Sharing Platforms through which Mass Information is Disseminated" on March 25.

The bill's initiators proposed regulating the Telegram platform.

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One of the authors of the document, MP Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech, said that the legislature could ban representatives of state and local government agencies from having official accounts on social media platforms classified as non-transparent.

During the Kyiv Stratcom Forum 2024 on March 27, Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, said that Telegram poses a national security problem for Ukraine due to its often destructive effect inside the country.

SBU spokesman Oleksandr Melnychenko said on March 28 that Telegram cooperates with Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor and the FSB. If the FSB needs to block any channel in Russia, "Telegram executes these instructions instantly."

In April, Telegram received a list of potentially problematic channels from Ukrainian authorities and is reviewing them. The Center for Countering Disinformation mentioned Ukraine's ability to influence Telegram founder Pavel Durov to limit specific channels in Ukraine.

Telegram founder Pavel Durov stated on April 24 that Telegram received a request from Apple to block certain channels for Ukrainian users. The messenger team agreed to comply.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine