How Russia is Using Social Media for Influence Operations Against European Parliamentary Elections

Last year we observed how Russian Twitter bots weaponize social media with the goal of influencing public opinion and spreading disinformation. We know that Russian bots and trolls influenced the United States 2016 presidential elections through disinformation campaigns. This activity has never stopped.   

With upcoming parliamentary elections, is the European Union (EU) experiencing similar types of information warfare in an attempt to sway the outcome?

In short, yes. Our research team launched an investigation into malicious information activity across the EU. We started monitoring the months leading up to the elections to understand if the tactics used were consistent with previous campaigns, how messages were disseminated, and what channels were involved. The results show a highly targeted, sophisticated, and efficient level of attack, that are all in line with how the Russian military views “contactless actions against the enemy,” per the theoretical outline proposed by Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of the General Staff.

Our study found:

  • Bad actors encompass three categories: bots, trolls, and hybrid bad actors
  • Misinformation volume is directed at EU member states to exploit and exacerbate developing social fissures and contentious issues in near real-time
  • Bad actors amplify content to either shape public perception of events, or project certain narratives into the zeitgeist at greater speed to bypass traditional media
  • EU personnel across administrative bodies and rank are currently vulnerable to bad actor operations, putting EU digital infrastructure at risk

Download the full report, “Contactless Actions Against the Enemy: How Russia Is Deploying Misinformation on Social Media to Influence European Parliamentary Elections”.

About the author
Otavio Freire

Otavio Freire

As the President, CTO and Co-Founder of SafeGuard Cyber, Mr. Freire is responsible for overseeing the development and innovation within SafeGuard’s enterprise platform. He guides efforts that enable customers to significantly impact their sales, marketing and enterprise efforts via better cyber protection in social and digital channels.

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