Independent internet monitors have reported a surge in bot-generated activity using images of Western celebrities calling for a halt to support to Ukraine.

The Bot Blocker / antibot4navalny project has identified an outpouring of fake social media posts that appear to have been made by over 75 western music, film and sports stars attacking Ukraine and its supporters produced by a bot factory, linked to the Kremlin.

The list includes such diverse personalities as Angelina Jolie, Beyonce, Cristiano Ronaldo, Elton John, Greta Thunberg, Jennifer Lopez, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Branson, and Taylor Swift

The campaign features images of these popular icons condemning Ukraine, urging nations to end support to Kyiv, and accusing the US of involvement in the attack on the Nord Stream-2 pipeline in English, French, and German.

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The independent Russian news site The Insider reports that the posts first began as paid advertisements on Facebook in early November before starting to appear on X and “cloned” websites around Nov. 23. In the paid Facebook posts a selection of random, probably fictitious individuals are listed in the “beneficiaries and payer” fields.

The Insider site firmly points the finger for the spam attacks at the Doppelgänger bot network which, as Kyiv Post previously reported, has been responsible for several internet disinformation attacks, including an antisemitic campaign in October in response to the Hamas-Israel conflict.

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IS has claimed responsibility on multiple occasions for the March 22 attack which killed over 140 people, but Moscow has repeatedly tried to link Ukraine and the West to the attack.

Two Russian IT companies National Technologies and the Social Design Agency, both under EU sanctions, are thought to host the bots. Both have strong links to the Kremlin, particularly National Technologies which is part of Rostec – Russia’s state-owned defense corporation which is headed by a close friend of Vladimir Putin, former KGB officer Sergey Chemezov.

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A sample of some of the fake posts. Photo: The Insider.ru / X (formerly Twitter)

The fake posts include celebrity “quotes” calling for a halt to Western financial aid to Ukraine, arguing that Ukraine’s position is hopeless or that the West should be “more concerned” with the war between Israel and Hamas.

Though “professionally” produced the falseness of them should be obvious. They depict stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Beyonce and 50 Cent suddenly becoming experts in political, financial or military issues and expressing their views in multi-lingual posts

Viewed singly they would at least make a reader stop and think, particularly if it appears under the banner of a celebrity they recognize, and the view expressed is one with which they sympathize.

Viewed collectively it is immediately evident that it is bots at work. Different personalities appear against “quotes” that are identical to those made by others and linked to publications that do not normally concern themselves with issues relating to the war in Ukraine.

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The clincher that this is yet another organized disinformation campaign is provided by the Bot Blocker / antibot4navalny project which was able to identify that the posts were originally generated by many of the same accounts, counterfeit websites and identities that the Doppelgänger network used to produce messages for earlier attacks.

The Insider highlights some of these which included the Euro/BRICS web-site that called for close links between the two economic blocs but was actually run by a unit of Russia’s Military Intelligence (GRU).

The same accounts earlier produced a flood of identical posts from a fictitious website promoting opportunities for Ukrainian women and transgender sex workers in Europe aimed at those who are against immigration and would react badly to suggestions that a stream of transgender prostitutes was on its way from Ukraine.

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