US claims that Russian intelligence services are spreading disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic- seeking to exploit a crisis that America is struggling to contain ahead of the presidential election in November.
Many articles have been published about the pandemic including coverage aimed at denigrating the US.
Among the headlines that caught the attention of U.S. officials were “Russia’s Counter COVID-19 Aid to America Advances Case for Détente,” which suggested that Russia had given urgent and substantial aid to the U.S. to fight the pandemic, and “Beijing Believes COVID-19 is a Biological Weapon,” which amplified statements by the Chinese.
US officials confirmed that Russia is using internet trolls to further advance their goals of creating confusion in the minds of the American public and to divide their opinion similar to what they did in 2016 presidential elections in the US.
US is currently facing the twin crisis of coronavirus crisis and racial protests. This has offered a fertile ground for creating misinformation. President Trump has also come under scrutiny for sharing misinformation about a disproven drug for treating the coronavirus on social media.
Officials described the Russian disinformation as part of an ongoing and persistent effort to advance false narratives and cause confusion and to exacerbate race relations in America and drive corruption allegations against U.S. political figures. Certain Russian websites have leveraged the current pandemic to promote anti-Western objectives and to spread disinformation. These sites promote their narratives in a sophisticated manner and also amplify stories that originate elsewhere.
A headline on one of the websites mentioned “Chaos in the Blue Cities,” which is about the unrest roiling American cities. This accompanied a story that lamented how New Yorkers who grew up under the tough-on-crime approach of former Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg “and have zero street smarts” must now “adapt to life in high-crime urban areas.”
U.S. officials have identified two of the people believed to be behind the website “InfoRos” operations and have links with Russian military intelligence.
“InfoRos” is evolving in a shady grey zone, where regular information activities are mixed with more controversial actions that could be quite possibly linked to the Russian state’s information operations.
On its English-language Facebook page, InfoRos describes itself as an “Information agency: world through the eyes of Russia.”