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Ukrainian hacktivist attack finds Russian propaganda agency cherrypicking Western media

Ukrainian hacktivists have leaked data belonging to a Russian propaganda agency known for reposting carefully curated Western media that depicts Russia’s war efforts in a positive light.

user icon Daniel Croft
Thu, 30 Nov 2023
Ukrainian hacktivist attack finds Russian propaganda agency cherrypicking Western media
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The Ukrainian Cyber Resistance hacking group penetrated the Department of Information and Mass Communications (DIMC) of the Russian Ministry of Defence, which has been accused of spreading disinformation by InformNapalm, a Ukrainian counter-disinformation publication that describes itself as a volunteer intelligence community.

InformNapalm accused the DIMC of publishing snippets of Western news that had been hand-curated by Igor Konashenkov, a Russian General.

The Ukrainian agency has been critical of Konashenkov and accused him of disinformation in the past, calling him a “walking meme”.

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“The DIMC is the realm of the notorious Igor Konashenkov, the spokesperson who is daily voicing Russian reports from the combat zone,” said InformNapalm.

“In the Ukrainian eyes, Igor Konashenkov has long become a walking meme, as it was, he who day after day rattled out the phrase ‘there are no losses’ during the first weeks of the invasion and claimed thousands of destroyed Ukrainian tanks – more than Ukraine had before the invasion.”

Now, InformNapalm has said that the DIMC carefully analyse any information relating to Russia and its conflict with Ukraine, collecting media reports.

These reports are then classed as positive, neutral or negative before then republishing them disproportionately to show a much larger number of positive accounts than negative ones.

The majority of articles analysed and posted are Russian, with Western media needing to be specifically searched for.

“The system is programmed to whitewash the reality – no negative reporting about Putin or the army, no failures. A kind of digital Konashenkov – ‘there are no losses’,” added InformNapalm.

“The system analyses mainly the Russian information space. Western and Ukrainian media are present in the database, but they must be searched manually.

“They do not affect the overall picture. Any analysis is predominantly based on the Russian sources, which are subject to censorship and self-censorship.”

The Cyber Resistance group also found a document from Konashenkov to the deputy general director of All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, Igor Shestakov.

The letter warns Shestakov of “unreliable” Russian Telegram channels, which could mean channels that critique the Russian military or are less pro-war.

InformNapalm said Russia has cracked down on publications that discredit the military and Putin’s government in the past and has arrested those who speak out, such as vocal critic Igor Girkin.

However, InformNapalm was unable to view the attachments of the Konashenkov/Shestakov letter, and thus, the meaning of “unreliable” cannot be verified.

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