In this article, POLITICO looks at the “Jekyl and Hyde” role of the encrypted platform Telegram during the war in Ukraine, focusing on the EU ban of the Russian-backed outlet Russia Today (RT) on television broadcast, video sharing platforms and other digital network sites. While Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is able to use this platform to communicate with his 1.3 million followers, Russia-supporters also use it to communicate and share RT content. In Germany, where RT content (RT Deutsch) was banned in February, far-right groups and channels have continued pushing their content and narratives.
In understanding the magnitude of the situation, POLITICO references a recently published Digital Dispatch by ISD – Support from the Conspiracy Corner: German-Language Disinformation about the Russian Invasion of Ukraine on Telegram – and features ISD analyst and Russia expert Julia Smirnova.
Speaking to POLITICO editor Mark Scott, Julia said: “These influencers were basically posting Russian propaganda lines on the war.” In Germany, “Telegram is the central platform of fringe groups, especially conspiracy and far-right groups. They’ve continued to post content from RT,” she said.
Following the publication of the article on 4 March, Telegram removed access to these channels within the EU.
Julia Smirnova is an Analyst at ISD and ISD Germany, focusing on the proliferation of disinformation, conspiracy myths, hate speech and extremist ideologies online.