ParisWith less than four months until the European elections, the French government has sounded the alarm: Russia has redoubled its campaign of disinformation and interference on the Internet to destabilize Europe. Paris warns that it has detected 193 “information portals” that are part of a large-scale propaganda network orchestrated by Vladimir Putin’s regime and aimed at influencing public opinion in Western countries. “We believe that this network that has been set up by Russian actors is to influence the European elections. There are different countries affected,” said the French Foreign Minister, Stéphane Séjourné, on Monday.
The portals publish news in different languages such as Spanish, French and German, mostly related to the war in Ukraine. One of the most active, with a Spanish version, is that of Pravdaaccording to the report that the French agency in charge of detecting foreign digital interference, Viginum, published this Monday.
The document explains that most of the websites on the network, dubbed Portal Kombat, do not produce original content but echo content on social networks published by actors close to Russia, who often act with fake profiles, from agencies of Russian press or media or official websites of Putin’s government.
Inaccurate and misleading narratives
“Highly ideologically oriented, the contents expose manifestly inaccurate or misleading narratives,” the report points out. In the case of the French portal of Pravda, Viginum considers that it “participates directly in the polarization of the Francophone digital public debate”. In any case, the organization also emphasizes that the impact of this type of website is very limited because they do not have mass consumption. French investigators have not been able to identify the people or the organization behind this “infernal disinformation machine” but believe the operation “is directly piloted by the presidential administration in Moscow.”
The French Minister of Foreign Affairs has assured after meeting with his counterparts from Germany, Annalena Baerbock, and Poland, Radoslaw Sikorski, that the three European countries are “united” and committed to fighting together against Russian interference. “All three countries have been victims of the same destabilization strategy,” Séjourné stressed.
Common tool against disinformation
France, Germany and Poland have announced they will launch a joint plan to denounce and curb Russia’s disinformation strategy, although they have not offered details about the plan. “We will use all the tools to identify fake news, classify it as such and denounce it publicly,” said the French minister. “Russia modifies the facts and the truth because in a world where everyone is disoriented, whoever has a more organized force has more influence,” Sikorski said.