Weeks ago we had to come up with a publication where we addressed the misinformation spread by EADaily.com website. Citing a Lebanese TV channel as a source of this information, that publication claimed that Russia is going to dispatch additional 7.000 troops and armored vehicles to Armenia. Moreover, the news website did not spare money for disseminating the “news” and made use of Facebook’s paid services.
Unfortunately, after only a few weeks, we observe an almost identical situation. And as the Russian national currency is in agony, the propagandist circles of the country adopt a more diligent approach towards their work.
So, orer.am and later previously almost unknown PandaNews.am news websites published the “Putin Is Returning Mount Ararat. URGENT!” news article. None of the websites cited the other. A short search reveals that there are hundreds of similar publications in the Russian internet space, the source of which we were unable to find. There are thousands of completely identical publications in Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki social media websites and blogs.
The publication claims that Russia has allegedly set S-400 anti-aircraft stations in Gyumri military base and intends to terminate Kars and Moscow agreements. Each of the websites that has published the material with completely identical texts claims that they got the information from their own sources.
It is difficult to speculate on what “close to Kremlin” sources these “news websites” can have, websites whose main occupation is stealing identical materials from each other. But it goes without saying that the dissemination of this information is not accidental and spontaneous.
This is also evidenced by the fact that many of the websites (PandaNews, for instance) disseminated that publication by using Facebook’s paid advertising services, which are not cheap, to say the least. Besides, since 2012, organizations have been operating in Russia that have hundreds of employees who are specifically occupied with spreading pro-Kremlin publications, first of all, in the blogosphere and Russian social networks (Odnoklassniki and Vkontakte). According to the previous employees, those organizations’ main occupation is improving the images of Putin, Shoygu, Medvedev and other officials, as well as defaming Ukraine, the West and the Russian opposition.
Nevertheless, previously those full-time bloggers worked only in the territory of Russia and Ukraine and never entered the Armenian media field. Currently, the situation has probably changed. And though one volley does not indicate war yet, there is an impression that Kremlin’s internet propaganda is opening a front in Armenia.
In any case, it is obvious that Kremlin’s promotional links have already started their campaigns against Armenia. Moreover, their campaigns are targeting the most vulnerable issues for Armenians, including Mount Ararat, Kars, and etc. It will not be surprising if one day Russian propaganda announces that “an American has kidnapped and raped a young woman in Armenia”, or “a German has eaten a newborn Armenian child”. They disseminate similar materials in different countries and as a result, they get the support of certain local groups. Such was the case with the speculations about “a Russian girl kidnapped and raped in Germany”. As it turned out later, the girl had neither been kidnapped nor raped.
In any case, in the near future we will be able evaluate the degree of vulnerability of the Armenian media field and the immunity of the Armenian against misinformation.
Union of Informed Citizens NGO