Germany has ‘uncovered a large pro-Russia disinformation campaign on X’

German authorities have uncovered a pro-Russia disinformation campaign on X – formerly known as Twitter – conducted by more than 50,000 fake accounts. This was reported by the weekly Der Spiegel, according to which experts appointed by the German Foreign Ministry monitored the posts on the social platform from 20 December to 20 January. The result of the investigation thus led to the discovery of tens of thousands of fake accounts, which produced more than a million tweets in German in an attempt to foment the anger of German citizens against the country’s support for Ukraine in the conflict against the Russia. The discovery comes a few days after the publication of an EU report which highlighted how, and against whom, disinformation attacks are conducted by malicious agents, while the World Economic Forum has indicated that disinformation driven by artificial intelligence is the main global danger in the coming years.

The pro-Russia disinformation network on

On some days, the experts appointed by the Ministry would have recorded around 200 thousand posts, that is, two per second. According to reports from the Guardian, a recurring theme in this disinformation campaign was the accusation that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was ignoring his own population to help Ukraine in its war against Russia. In one of the fake posts on the only clear sign that it was a fake. Additionally, these accounts often linked to fake news stories posted on sites built to resemble actual news sites. For analysts, the disinformation campaign originated in Russia, and is linked to the “Doppelgänger” campaign that had already emerged in 2022. According to AGI, the consistency of the campaign – also conducted via social bots that exploit artificial intelligence – would have caused concerns in the German government about possible interference in the upcoming elections. This year in Germany there will be voting in three Lands, and the country will also be involved in the elections for the renewal of the European Parliament. The German Foreign Ministry, the Guardian reports, underlined how this discovery further highlights the need to counter the growing number of disinformation campaigns and recognize the impact they can have on elections.

The threat of disinformation and the role of AI

Just two days ago EU High Representative Josep Borrell warned that this year’s elections around the world will be a “primary target” for countries seeking to spread disinformation and undermine democracy and that 2024 “will be a crucial year to combat” foreign manipulation. The EU has published a new report in which the mechanisms and possible threats behind “Foreign Information Manipulation and Interference” are explored in depth. While the World Economic Forum, in the Global Risks Report 2024 released on the occasion of the annual meeting in Davos, indicated disinformation – also driven by increasingly easy access to artificial intelligence tools – as the most serious threat at a global level in the next two years. However, as underlined by the EU report itself, the spread of tools based on artificial intelligence could bring benefits to those trying to defend themselves from disinformation attacks.

The AI4TRUST project

The use of artificial intelligence to counter phenomena such as disinformation is at the center of AI4TRUST, a European project involving 17 partners (including SkyTG24) from 11 countries and financed by the Horizon Europe program of the European Union. The aim of the project is to combat online disinformation, taking advantage of the tools that artificial intelligence can make available to people. The project aims to create a safe environment, which integrates the monitoring of social networks and media with the most advanced technologies based on artificial intelligence so as to make the activities of journalists, fact-checkers and political decision-makers more effective.