May 5, 2022 | POLITICO

Microinfluencer behind #IStandWithRussia push proactively set up network years before the invasion

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a social media hashtag (#IStandWithRussia) began to go viral online, ultimately creating an inauthentic perception of support for Russia. ISD researchers were able to pinpoint the push behind the hashtag to an austalian-based user, who set up multiple profiles, pages, channels and groups years ago. Moustafa Ayad spoke with Politico on our findings, disclosing that the user posted that he began the hashtag back in 2014 “so that wen [sic] situations like this happened, there would be an easy way to connect with each other and a massive amount of support for Russia.”

“He’s a central node amid a suite of [social media] channels,” Moustafa said. “He’s set up a bunch of brands and outlets that are aligned with Russian state media or push out Russian state media tropes.”

Moustafa Ayad  is the Executive Director for Africa, the Middle East and Asia at ISD. You can find a range of his work in our publications section.