Plenty of Russian embassy Twitter accounts are spreading disinformation as the bloody invasion of Russia’s neighbor Ukraine gathers momentum, but they can’t get away with it for long.
On Thursday, Twitter took action against a particularly egregious tweet that claimed a pregnant victim had fled the scene of a hospital bombing in Mariupol by an actor wearing “very realistic make-up.” The account belongs to the Russian embassy in London, which is actively spreading false information about the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Commenting on a photo of a pregnant woman after the attack, @Russianembassy tweeted: “…she has very realistic makeup. She also thrives on her beauty blogs. In addition, it was impossible to be in the maternity hospital during the strike, as it had long been occupied by the neo-Nazi Azov battalion, which had ordered all personnel to evacuate.”
The false statement appears to have originated in russian telegram channelswho accused a Ukrainian blogger in the hospital of playing two different pregnant women at the scene of the explosion.
Russia continues to deny and distort its military aggression in Ukraine, often using lies that are easy to disprove. But this information is still circulating in the disinformation ecosystem, gaining momentum and fueling even more outlandish claims.
On Twitter, the Russian Embassy in London has removed at least three tweets in the last 24 hours for violating platform rules. However, a tweet pinned at the top of the embassy’s feed accused Ukraine of “destroying” people in two of the country’s eastern regions where local leadership supports the Russian regime.
The language of “destruction” reflects Russian President Vladimir Putin’s misleading justification for declaring war on Ukraine. “What is happening in the Donbass today is genocide,” Putin said last month, laying the groundwork for the invasion. gaming-updates took to Twitter with questions about how the company is drawing a line against Russian disinformation about the invasion.
This is not the first time that Russia has used its presence in a virtual embassy to sow its own history. The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab has been investigating how the Russian government uses a “full range” of official and unofficial accounts to spread its distorted online messages.
“Some of the channels he uses are open and official; Others are secretive and claim to be independent,” wrote senior researcher Ben Nimmo. “They all work together to create the presence of multiple voices and viewpoints, masking a coordinated approach.”
Twitter on Thursday took strong action against at least one other major source of propaganda, pendant @asbmilitary, an account that is actively involved in spreading the false conspiracy theory that the US has bioweapons labs in Ukraine. The Biden administration has expressed concern that a spate of disinformation about biological weapons could herald a Russian chemical attack in the country.