The Russian Doppelgänger bot network, which uses a variety of techniques to disseminate disinformation and propaganda on behalf of the Kremlin, is using the fallout from the Israel-Hamas conflict to spread a new campaign of fear and intimidation.
According to the botblocker@antibot4navalny anti-Russian propaganda investigative site, Doppelgänger has changed the direction of its long-standing attempts to use automated bots and fake articles to discredit Ukraine and Western countries toward increasingly using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to mask its activities.
The French news site Liberation reported that for the best part of a month Doppelgänger has been using hundreds of bots to post a video that threatens terrorist attacks on X (formerly Twitter), while supposedly “expressing deep concern” about its contents. The video was allegedly prepared by a Turkish nationalist group called the Gray Wolves (Bozkurtlar).
The video contains images and video clips of the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics of 17 people, including 11 members of the Israeli national team, by the Palestinian Black September organization and threatens to replicate them by attacking Jews at the 2024 Paris Olympics in Paris.
Along with the video are also posts of stenciled graffiti showing two hands – one, over the logo for the 1972 Olympics, is passing an assault rifle to the other which is above the logo for the 2024 games.
The images are accompanied by statements, supposedly attacking the “creators,” saying such things as “The perpetrators must be found and punished” or “This is an unacceptable threat. We must not be intimidated.”
Nevertheless, it is clear that these “supportive” messages do not mask the real intent of the posts, which is to threaten and alarm the organizers of the 2024 Olympics, French and other Jews against the background of the several terrorist atrocities inflicted on France in recent years.
Graffiti advocating the passing on of the anti-Jewish terrorist baton. Photo: open-source/X
botblocker@antibot4navalny is quoted in the independent Russian news site The Insider as saying that they had identified 593 tweets sharing the video from 558 different accounts. The posts were made in French, English and German. Each post was accompanied by the message “this should not happen!”
Who is Doppelgänger?
According to the Reset project, which was set up to analyze and report on the manipulation of digital media, Doppelgänger first appeared in 2021. It is made up of a network of linked accounts spreading propaganda in an attempt to sway public opinion in its target nations. The term “doppelgänger” appears frequently in European legends as an evil twin intent on causing harm.
As Kyiv Post reported in June, the term was coined by the French government’s VIGINUM service and the Belgium-based anti-disinformation NGO “EU DisinfoLab,” which had been working together to identify Russian disinformation campaigns against the media following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and in the buildup to France’s 2022 presidential elections.
The investigations discovered attacks against more than 17 media providers from France, Germany, the UK and other European countries. These used multiple clones of targeted government, mainstream and social media sites to conduct a concerted campaign that posted pro-Russian content and attacked Ukraine, its leaders and those nations providing military and other assistance to Kyiv.
The VIGINUM investigation concluded that the campaign was carried about by “Russian actors” with “state entities or entities affiliated to the Russian state,” such as Russian embassies and cultural centers who then “actively” participated in amplifying its impact.
An online destabilization campaign that used automated social-media accounts immediately after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel also appears to have come from Doppelgänger, according to the AP news media investigations in France.
The appearance of more than 200 spray-painted Stars of David on Paris streets was accompanied by another social media onslaught that was intended to feed alarm about surging anti-Semitism in France during the Israel-Hamas war. After the arrest of two Moldovans who allegedly painted the stars, it was soon evident that the campaign was being organized from outside France.
The social media campaign was also reinforced by reporting through the state media in Russia, such as the Ria Novosti, which was quick to post video of the Stars of David on its Telegram channel.
Since Israel began its military response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, France, the UK and other Western European countries have seen an upsurge in anti-Semitic sentiment and acts which in the intervening six weeks France has seen over 1,000 incidents – triple the total number reported in 2022.
France’s foreign ministry said: “This new operation of Russian digital interference against France testifies to the persistence of an opportunistic and irresponsible strategy aimed at exploiting international crises to sow confusion and create tensions in the public debate in France and in Europe.”
The statement went on to say that the campaign was carried out by bots affiliated with the Russian Doppelgänger network.
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