Bots, Assange, an alliance: Has Russian propaganda infiltrated the Philippines?

PROPAGANDA ACCOUNT. @ivan226622 is one of many fake accounts that have been used for Russian propaganda. Screenshot by Rappler

By Natshaya Gutierrez/rappler.com – At the peak of the Catalan independence movement in Spain, Twitter account @Ivan226622 tweeted 139 news items.

From September 29 to October 9, @Ivan226622 – like accounts @rickrick888 and @bobbit2266 – tweeted articles created by Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik. Both RT and Sputnik are Russian government-funded news sites that serve to spread Russian propaganda.

Top Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that all 3 Twitter accounts shared news articles in support of Catalan independence. All 3 tweeted 24 hours a day. All 3 tweeted the exact same articles at the exact same times.

The 3 accounts were “part of an online army of robot profiles, who, armed with gasoline canisters brimming with fake news, stalk social media and fan the flames of debate as ordered by their generals,” said Spain’s widest read newspaper and second most read online news site.

“At the beginning of October, this army went to work on the issue of Catalan independence. Evidence shows a total of 87% of the 65 accounts who most shared RT and Sputnik content were automated,” El Pais said.

“Those accounts helped ensure that Russian news outlets were the fourth most influential in the digital conversation about Catalonia.”

By November, the Spanish government said they had evidence that Russian-based groups used Twitter, Facebook, and other sites to back the Catalonia referendum, in an attempt to destabilize Spain.

But it seems that @Ivan226622, an account used for Russian propaganda, has since changed gears: it is now tweeting exclusively about the Philippines.

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