Ben Nimmo Profile picture
Apr 17, 2018 14 tweets 6 min read
Thread: looking at the evidence for a surge in disinformation following the Syria chemical attack.

medium.com/dfrlab/trolltr…
I ran a @sysomos scan on mentions of "false flag" or #falseflag and "Syria" from April 1 to April 16. Surge on April 8, and consistent high level thereafter.
The most-retweeted accounts come from a mixture of backgrounds - pro-Kremlin, pro-Assad, far-right, conspiracy fringe.

Note among the top 10, for example, Partisangirl, Alex Jones, Ian56789, Kim Dotcom.
A lot of the early arguments were based on the "cui bono" concept, i.e. Assad had nothing to gain from the attack.

That's not backed up by his previous behaviour, especially the sarin strike in April 2017, which a UN probe found was committed by his forces.
This is a scan of mentions of "cui bono", April 1-16. Note the spike on April 8. Much lower traffic, but then: Latin.
As a cross-check, because who knows what crazed Latinists may be running wild on Twitter, here's a word cloud around "cui bono" over the same period.

Assad, Syria, gas, Putin, Trump, war...
Again, users from various different backgrounds posted on this - pro-Assad, pro-Kremlin, far right (though there's so much crossover between those groups that it's somewhat fluid).

Does anyone know when Nick Griffin started flying the Russian and Syrian flags?
Another narrative says you can't believe anything the White Helmets say, b'c they're "Al Qaeda."

It's been a key Kremlin claim since the siege of Aleppo, when WH became a main source of war-crimes evidence. Mentions of "White Helmets" and "Qaeda" surged on April 13-14.
What's interesting in this scan (again, posts from April 1 to April 16) is how many of the most-shared posts linking White Helmets to Al Qaeda were actually tweeted well before the April 7 attack, but picked up new traffic after it.
These surges are a familiar pattern. For reference, here's a scan of mentions of "false flag" or #falseflag and "Salisbury" from March 1 to March 18.

Note that the Skripals were found poisoned on March 4, and Theresa May briefed Parliament on Novichok on March 12.
Again, there was a crossover here: pro-Kremlin and far-right accounts sharing the "false flag" narrative.

More details here: medium.com/dfrlab/putinat…
Claims of a false flag in Salisbury went on right until the moment when claims of a false flag in Syria took over.

Here's pro-Kremlin troll Ian56789 switching from one narrative to the next on April 8.
"Ian" doesn't have a very good record on his false-flag claims. Here's the same account calling the MH17 downing and the April 2017 sarin attacks "false flags".

International investigations found otherwise in both cases.
There was a surge in these claims from a variety of sources: pro-Kremlin, pro-Assad, far-right. The pattern over Syria was the same as over the Salisbury poisoning.

But precision is important. Don't lump it all together as "Russian." It's more complicated. / Thread ends

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More from @benimmo

Oct 9, 2018
Thread: just a snapshot of the increasing polarisation of the US Twittersphere ahead of the midterms.

Polarised communities proved to be an easy target for influence operations in 2014-18.

medium.com/dfrlab/electio…
Scanned three sets of paired election-related hashtags: #VoteRed / #VoteBlue, #RedWave2018 / #BlueWave2018, #FlipItRed / #FlipItBlue.

First scan covered 48 hours. Overall, pro-Democratic hashtags got significantly higher traffic (79k posts compared with 47k posts).
On this scan, users of pro-Democratic hashtags were roughly double the number of users on pro-Republican hashtags (40k users compared with 21k users).
Read 6 tweets
Oct 5, 2018
I mentioned the Kremlin's standard response technique of dismiss, distort, distract, dismay.

Quite a few of the elements are here, in the latest Russian MFA responses to the OPCW / GRU hacking story.

mid.ru/en/foreign_pol…
Dismiss: insult the critics. Plenty of that in the statement.

"Anti-Russian spy mania."
"Strong paranoia." (Not just "paranoia", you'll note.)
"Absurd anti-Russian attacks."
Interestingly, they didn't use the word "Russophobia" in this one, though it's been the bulwark of Kremlin defences since 2014.
Read 7 tweets
Oct 4, 2018
#OPCW hacking case: we've already had the Russian government trying to dismiss the latest UK / NL claims about the #GRU. That's tactic number 1.

Up next, expect attempts to distort, distract and dismay.
Distort. We saw this with the Skripal suspects, portrayed as "civilians" and snow-shy tourists.

Expect attempts to say that the photos were faked, the evidence was made up, and / or the men were harmless visitors on a diplomatic visit to fix the Embassy wifi.
Distract. Accuse the accusers.

Expect the arguments, "The West hacks people too," or "You killed civilians in Libya / Afghanistan / Vietnam / insert name here."

Which doesn't justify use of CW on civilians, or attempts to cover it up.
Read 4 tweets
Sep 13, 2018
#TrollTracker: interesting troll spike from the pro-Kremlin / pro-Assad gang against @janinedigi.

Image: @Sysomos scan of traffic over the past 7 days.
For those who don't know @janinedigi, here's a list of her awards as a war correspondent.

She reported from places including Grozny, Kosovo, Palestine, Rwanda, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Source: janinedigiovanni.com/awards-and-rec…
Here's the tweet which triggered the storm: a post saying that RT and Sputnik are not journalists.

That's a hell of a call for a genuine award-winning journalist to make, so let's look at evidence.
Read 11 tweets
Sep 6, 2018
Rare decision from @Ofcom here, finding broadcaster Ausaf UK no longer "fit and proper" to hold a licence.

Note that RT is also under scrutiny against the "fit and proper" criteria, but that Ofcom sets a high bar for these decisions.

ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/…
Particularly striking: Ausaf TV had its licence revoked before it started broadcasting, based on the content of the associated newspaper.

Including glorification of violent jihad and endorsement of listed terrorists.
Rather unwisely, the MD of the TV station initially denied that he was linked to the newspaper, then confirmed that he was.

Making false claims to the regulator is seldom a way to win confidence.
Read 5 tweets
Sep 6, 2018
Looks like someone tried to get hashtag SkripalHoax to trend overnight.

822 mentions. It really didn't do very well.
Let's look at some of the arguments.

Probably the most popular in the pro-Kremlin crowd was the claim that the Met Police photos of the arrival in Gatwick had the same timestamp, and therefore must have been photoshopped.
... unless there's more than one arrival channel at Gatwick, and they were walking together.

(h/t @bleidl for the photo)
Read 10 tweets

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