A Russian “troll factory” based in an old arms factory is peddling support for Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine by targeting the social media accounts of politicians and TikTokkers, the UK government has said.
According to research funded by the UK government, the trolls are tasked with targeting western media outlets and politicians, using varied techniques to put a positive spin on the bloody war.
The study breaks down how the scheme tries to manipulate public opinion on social media, as well as in the comments sections of major media outlets.
Boris Johnson, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz; and the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell are all targets, the study said.
Musicians including Daft Punk, David Guetta, Tiesto and Rammstein also appear to have been targeted.
Top TikTok stars were also paid to peddle a positive narrative about the Kremlin, the study added.
Activities on Twitter and Facebook were detected, but were found to be particularly concentrated on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.
The troll farm, in St Petersburg, is said to recruit and hire salaried workers openly, justifying the work as “patriotic activity” in support of the “special military operation” in Ukraine.
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The British foreign secretary, Liz Truss, said: “We cannot allow the Kremlin and its shady troll farms to invade our online spaces with their lies about Putin’s illegal war.
“The UK government has alerted international partners and will continue to work closely with allies and media platforms to undermine Russian information operations.”
The culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, said: “These are insidious attempts by Putin and his propaganda machine to deceive the world about the brutality he’s inflicting on the people of Ukraine.
“This evidence will help us to more effectively identify and remove Russian disinformation and follows our decisive action to block anyone from doing business with Kremlin-controlled outlets RT and Sputnik.”