War in Ukraine: fake news on social networks, pro-Russian disinformation… be careful, France is particularly targeted

War in Ukraine: fake news on social networks, pro-Russian disinformation… be careful, France is particularly targeted

Western countries have in recent months been particularly targeted by pro-Russian disinformation with the aim of undermining support for kyiv, crucial in its resistance against Russia (photo illustration). charlesdeluvio – UNSPLASH

The idea of ​​sending troops to Ukraine, mentioned by Emmanuel Macron, has sparked a new wave of publications on social networks mixing exaggerations, approximations and fake news, to fan the embers of this anxiety-provoking subject.

"You are not ready for what is going to happen in our country, our dear ruler is ready, apparently, to do battle with Vladimir […] All the reservists are going to be mobilized […] Not long ago a law was passed which stipulates that if the country goes to war […], you can be mobilized at any time. And if you refuse, you will apparently face a prison sentence and a fine", says for example an Internet user dressed in military attire in a TikTok video "liked" more than 130 000 times, shared more than 10 000 and commented more than 17 000 in just a few days.< /p>

Fake website

"The Army is recruiting and training 200,000 men to carry out operations in Ukraine", "Recruitment for the war in Ukraine has begun. It is stipulated on the site that immigrants have priority!", Internet users wrote at the end of March, relaying a fake Army website, inviting "200 000" people to enlist to fight in Ukraine.

Manipulations

If the information war has raged since the start of the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Western countries have in recent months been particularly targeted by pro-Russian disinformation with the aim of undermining support for kyiv, crucial in its resistance against Russia. And since on February 26, Emmanuel Macron did not rule out sending Western troops to the front, France has been particularly targeted.

Manipulations likely to fuel fears of a direct France/Russia confrontation in Ukraine, a prospect that Paris has always said it wants to avoid.

Russian actions

The range of narratives mixes fake news, unverifiable or decontextualized assertions, and real declarations but with an exaggerated scope, as around the idea mentioned by the Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu of resorting to requisitions or requiring industrialists to give priority to military needs over civilian needs, to accelerate production.

Part of this digital noise is fueled by the Russians' information manipulation apparatus, several sources say.

The Wall Street Journal claimed to have had access to an internal Kremlin memo detailing "the Moscow plans to launch a diplomatic and influence campaign to amplify the differences around Macron's position", while’European experts from EUVsDisinfo, attached to the diplomatic service of the EU, estimated on Thursday that "parallel to President Macron's statement that nothing should be excluded in terms of military support for Ukraine, the Kremlin has now launched a more aggressive campaign to undermine the French position".

"They are working to get this narrative across", confirms to AFP a French security source, on condition of anonymity.

"There is a form of coordination by Russian military intelligence operators", explains French researcher David Colon , specialist in disinformation. "Essentially, this is a very largely decentralized ecosystem.

Manipulation Techniques

Indeed, "it is rare for the Kremlin to give instructions and this is not necessary for its speech to be relayed by the chambers of affairs. rsquo;pro-Russian echo", according to him. Telegram channels serve as "main vehicle"narratives which are then disseminated on different platforms and relayed by all kinds of accounts, some intended for this, but also by users in good faith "who do not have a will& ;quot; to propagate the Kremlin's positions.

The contents are also relayed by individuals who "are already in a position of detestation of the government and will tend to be in search of arguments which go in the direction of this hatred. This is the hypothesis confirmation bias, which consists, unconsciously, of only searching for and selecting arguments that go in the direction of one's hypothesis", explains the researcher Séverine Falkowicz, author of Au coeur de l’esprit critique. A short guide to thwarting manipulation (Éditions Eyrolles).

The "cherry picking"

They can use the technique of "cherry picking, by voluntarily choosing only the information that suits them, then they make an abusive generalization, which is a technique handling. For example, emphasizing some information devoid of context, then saying that all the soldiers or that the reservists are going to be sent to the front, when we know nothing about it , she adds, or even "use the slippery slope, which consists of saying if this passes, how far will they take us" nbsp;?”.

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