Pro-Kremlin Propaganda about Neo-Nazis in Ukraine Targets South Africans Online

Pro-Kremlin Propaganda about Neo-Nazis in Ukraine Targets South Africans Online

Authors: Melanie Smith, Nathan Doctor, Thomas Mongardini
Published: 23 May 2024 

This report examines pro-Kremlin propaganda targeting South Africans on social media. It finds that Kremlin-aligned actors are spreading false and misleading narratives that portray Ukraine as a Nazi-controlled state in an attempt to justify Russia’s invasion and influence South African public opinion. Analysis reveals these narratives spread across platforms like Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) through official Kremlin-aligned and controlled channels but also via social media influencers from other English-speaking countries and, at times, South African media outlets. During the data collection period, which ran from 1 September 2023 to 1 April 2024, there was significant discussion about alleged Nazism in Ukraine among South African users on X, with over 12k posts referencing the narrative. There was also more engagement with posts from official Kremlin sources on X than on Facebook. For example, the Russian Embassy in South Africa received 30.7k engagements on 41 posts positioning Ukraine as a ‘Nazi state’ on X, compared with 1.3k engagements on 57 posts on Facebook. This raises questions about effective policy enforcement and moderation of false and misleading content.

Melanie Smith is the Director of Research for Information Operations at ISD. Nathan Doctor is a Senior Digital Methods Manager with ISD’s Digital Analysis Unit. Thomas Mongardini is a Junior Investigator at Centre for Information Resilience (CIR).

Download Report

Pulling Back the Curtain: An Exploration of YouTube’s Recommendation Algorithm

This is the executive summary of ISD’s Pulling Back the Curtain series which explores different aspects of YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. The series consists of four separate investigations examining the recommendations sent to eight U.S.-based YouTube accounts registered with varying ages, genders, and interests over one month. This report summarizes the findings across all four investigations and provides an overview of the project and platform policy recommendations.

Investigation 4: Spanish-Language News Consumers

This is the fourth investigation in ISD’s Pulling Back the Curtain series which explores different aspects of YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. The series consists of four separate investigations examining the recommendations sent to eight U.S.-based YouTube accounts registered with varying ages, genders, and interests over one month. This report examines the recommendations sent to two accounts with an interest in Spanish langauge news.