Russia Targets DFLR Labs

  • The timing has been chosen for a reason, since this month, the US held a presidential election.
  • It should be noted that LinkedIn did not participate in the purge due to being banned in Russia.
  • Russia is blaming DFRLab for the ban and identification of the Russian social media accounts.

A large cluster of Russian social media accounts have been purged on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram social media platforms. The purge started in October, and continued into the November. Additionally, there is a large number of Russian groups on the same platforms that have been deactivated.

Alexei Navalny is a Russian politician and anti-corruption activist. The Wall Street Journal described him as “the man Vladimir Putin fears most.”

The timing has been chosen for a reason, since this month, the US held a presidential election. The Russian nationals have been accused of meddling in the 2016 US election. Therefore, it was imperative to to deploy stringent risk assessment and risk control measures by the West.

It should be noted that LinkedIn did not participate in the purge due to being banned in Russia. Nevertheless, some Russian nationals can circumvent the blackout and still are able to use LinkedIn. The official reason for the mass account suspension given is the violation of the rules and services of the platforms, while engaging in the coordinated actions.

Furthermore, the accounts deleted specifically supported Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, and claimed to be members of the United Russia Party (aka Putin’s party). Some of the account holders stated that they were deactivated for criticizing Alexei Navalny’s smart voting project.

The smart voting project is meant for Russian voters to vote for anyone but the United Russia party candidates. However, the idea is foolish on every level. Candidates can just join another party for the purposes of the election.

For example, just this week, 17 members of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) and elected officials in Khabarovsk quit the party. They are now independent, but more than likely they informally support the United Russia party’s initiatives. Hence, the smart voting is just that, too “smart.”

Russia is blaming the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) for the identification and bans of the Russian social media accounts. According to the DRFRLab’s website, it is responsible for building the world’s leading hub of digital forensic analysts tracking events in governance, technology, security, and where each intersect as they occur. DRFRLab is a subsidiary of NATO.

The LDPR — Liberal Democratic Party of Russia is a socially conservative, nationalist, economically interventionist political party in Russia led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky since its founding in 1989. Despite the party’s name, it is frequently described as “neither liberal nor democratic.”

Clearly, it is a great initiative targeting disinformation. Simply put, the DRFRLab executed the targets successfully.  Nevertheless, it is plausible that some of the accounts could have ended up in the wrong groups and were not actively involved in the propaganda campaign on behalf of the Kremlin. However, this shows how everyone should be cautious about which group one joins and accepting connections.

Russia is now specifically targeting Michael Sheldon, of the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association, claiming he is solely responsible for the mass account takedowns. Russia claims he is engaged in training feature spies.

Therefore, it is plausible to expect a new propaganda campaign with the targeted fear mongering of the Russian populous pertaining to the foreign spies circling the Russian social media account holders and groups. The timing is actually convenient for the Kremlin to push the need for the Russian intranet bases on the fear tactics.

It is clear Russia wants to make sure the spotlight on the DFRLlab and a few other UK-based intelligence services to increase the level of the propaganda. This comes on the heels of the new foreign agent law coming into effect on January 1st in Russia. The cyber warfare will continue.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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