Russia’s DoppelGänger Campaign Manipulates Social Media

Security

Security researchers have observed a new DoppelGänger campaign dubbed Operation Matriochka aimed at challenging the credibility of journalists and fact-checkers since May 2022. 

By leveraging X (formerly Twitter), the operation not only disseminated disinformation articles but also engaged in commenting and sharing to prompt further investigation.

According to a technical write-up published by the Sekoia team today, Facebook served as another significant platform for DoppelGänger. Initially, it relied on the pages of Russian officials to share disinformation articles. 

However, a shift occurred in August 2022, with the campaign utilizing inauthentic accounts for a more industrial-scale dissemination strategy known as “burner accounts.” Despite efforts to flag the campaign, DoppelGänger continued its activity, particularly through political ads, reportedly exploiting Facebook’s lax moderation policies.

DoppelGänger also extended its reach beyond Facebook to platforms like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and Cameo. It employed various formats, including deep fakes and roundtable conferences, to propagate disinformation narratives effectively. An example is a YouTube video titled “INTEL Roundtable w/ Johnson & McGovern,” which presented a biased analysis aimed at undermining Ukraine.

The campaign’s infrastructure operates through multiple layers, utilizing social botnets and URL redirection to obscure the dissemination of disinformation. Despite efforts to dismantle it, the infrastructure remains resilient, adapting to avoid takedowns.

A parallel infrastructure supporting Russian-language propaganda missions was also uncovered, indicating DoppelGänger’s broader objectives. These websites, running under Cloudflare CDN, exhibit consistent updates, suggesting ongoing activity aimed at influencing Russian-speaking audiences.

Read more on DoppelGänger campaigns: Russian-Aligned Network Doppelgänger Targets German Elections

While similarities exist with other influence campaigns like Portal Kombat, technical investigations haven’t linked them conclusively. This indicates that DoppelGänger operates independently, targeting different audiences simultaneously.

Despite increasing scrutiny, DoppelGänger persists, exploiting weaknesses in platform regulations and slow institutional responses. Its sophistication continues to evolve, raising concerns about its impact on public opinion and democratic processes.

Efforts like the European Digital Service Act aim to curb such influence campaigns, emphasizing the need for collaborative action between platforms, civil society and government agencies to safeguard democratic processes against disinformation threats.

Image credit: JRdes / Shutterstock.com

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