October 7, 2022 | VICE News

Workaround Russian propaganda sites slipping through EU bans

Months after the EU ban on Russia Today and Sputnik, state-sponsored Russian disinformation is still finding its way into European spaces online. VICE News features our research on the different tactics being used to circumvent the restrictions in place.

ISD Senior Digital Methods Manager and co-author of the report, Jordan Wildon, spoke to VICE about our findings, explaining how some of the workaround were simple character substitutes in the same URL.

“Putting a hyphen in it makes it a totally new domain,” he said. “But it would lead to exactly the same content.”

Our researcher found 12 domains that were identical to RT and could be traced back to Moscow. All but one of the domains were created following the invasion of Ukraine.

“That was very much a seemingly intentional effort to get around the sanctions by that point,” Jordan said.

These workaround domains technically fall into the EU ban, but they have slipped enforcement which falls under the policing of individual countries. And while the workarounds don’t make up for the loss in traffic the main sites experienced, it can still influence European audiences with pro-Russian narratives.