The Murky Origin Story of #IstandwithRussia

Published: 5 May 2022

The profiles, groups, pages, and channels linked to the #IstandwithRussia campaign indicate that accounts on social media can manipulate a range of different platforms under the guise of supporting “pro-Russia” content. They use this momentum to build communities that not only bolster Kremlin disinformation but capitalise on the conflict by selling merchandise. While the focus of this briefing homed in on the use of the Account X profiles to spread pro-Kremlin narratives and content, the accounts are also engaged in disinformation in the Australian public sphere. The accounts were found to be pushing COVID-19 lockdown content and American-linked politics, sharing unreliable sources that only seek to create further political fissures as the Australian elections inch closer.

This report illustrates how the dubious accounts are ultimately engaged in a multi-platform drive to skew public debate, using a range of tactics. The use of fake media outlets, one of which carries the same name as the parent organization of state-run media, seems to short–circuit systems built to detect inauthentic behavior. The success of the profiles is evidenced not only in the ability of their claimed hashtag going viral on Twitter, but also in flying under the radar for more than seven years.

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