May 30, 2024 | Die Zeit

Julia Smirnova on Russian influence campaigns targeting the EU elections

ISD Senior Analyst Julia Smirnova spoke to the German weekly Die Zeit about the scope and impact of Russian information operations targeting the European Parliamentary election on 9 June.

Julia explained that she saw “signs of Russian disinformation” ahead of the election seeking to “reinforce polarising, anti-democratic and anti-migration content.” These influence campaigns were targeting EU institutions, portraying them as “corrupt, authoritarian and undemocratic” in an effort to discredit them.

She goes on to explain that the influence operations exploit different elements of the policy agenda, targeting refugees and the LGBTQ+ community, weaponising climate action, and delegitimising military support for Ukraine. Ukrainian politicians, particularly President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, are frequently targeted in these campaigns, sometimes openly in Russian state media and at other times covertly on social media. Julia then shares that she has observed new tactics being used in Russian disinformation campaigns, which consists of fake investigative journalists or whistleblowers who reveal alleged explosive information on social media.

Finally, she emphasises the harms of these information operations and the responsibility of social media platforms bear in identifying and flagging these influence campaigns. “We should not underestimate the danger. […] Disinformation is more effective in times of social uncertainty and war, especially in an election year like this,” she said.

The full article is available on Zeit’s website.