"Tikhanovskaya resigns". How Russian publishers promote fakes

Тихановская уходит - это фейк News
The fake news that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is resigning has been circulating on the internet for over a month now. Judging by indirect signs, its launch seems to be a planned information campaign, which is supported by pro-government Russian public pages on social media.

How fake news spread on social media

“Svetlana Tikhanovskaya resigns” – the news in the form of a short video appeared about a month ago on the Youtube channel “People Speak”. This short video, which was published at 02:00 at night, was noticed by the Baltic Internet Policy Initiative. It has 969 comments underneath.
Fake news from Russian publics
The Baltic Internet Policy Initiative found this publication by analyzing mentions of the Belarusian woman-politician Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in the preparation of the publication “Belarusian Politicians, January 2023″. Among the mentions, an unusual trend stood out on January 9-10, 2023, called “Svetlana Tikhanovskaya resigned as President of Belarus”.
Let’s examine the hourly breakdown:
The news first appeared on the Youtube channel “People Speak”, which had 350,000 subscribers as of February 10, 2023. If you go to the channel’s main page, you will see videos about Nostradamus, Haruki Murakami and Al Capone, as well as many videos with quotes from Russian public figures. The second publication with the text about Tikhanovskaya (matching down to the last punctuation mark) was made by Ilya Begun, a “influencer” of state media, on his telegram channel “Authoritatively”:
Within five minutes (!), this text appears on the Telegram channel “Political Humor” with the tags “sarcasm” and “joke”:
Within an hour, the information moves on to twitter Then the journey begins on Vk.com. However, it’s inactive: the fake didn’t take off until midday. Vk.com users wrote: “Will there be any proofs, besides a couple of posts and VK publics?” By 18:00, the text (with the same image) reached “Odnoklassniki”.
The rise begins after the publication in a group that fully supports Russian aggression in Ukraine. It was published exactly at 19:00 (!). And this post was shared 56 times as of 14:00 on February 9.
At the exact minute (19:00), it appeared in several groups, giving the impression of a planned and synchronized action: According to the hourly chart, this unreliable information reached its highest circulation (number of mentions) on January 10, 2023. In particular, the post (13:04) from this group was reposted 79 times! With this photo:
The repost was posted on “Odnoklassniki” and the aggregator Belnovosti:
The third instance of the “magic of exact timing” occurred on the YouTube channel “People Speak,” which was the initiator of the topic – it launched the false information on the network. On January 10, 2023, at 10:00, the following comment was added, and thus the video became a little more popular by YouTube standards:

What does this mean? Conclusions and recommendations

Based on the nature of the groups where the information appeared, it can be concluded that some Russian forces are using various social media to disseminate disinformation about Belarusian political leaders. This case is a clear example of how minimal means can make fake news trend. All that remains is to observe how it spreads among users of Russian social networks. And the fact that online media did not pick up the news does not change the scale of social media coverage – tens of thousands of people saw the fake news.
  • Check when the news first appeared on the internet.
  • Find its source and make sure it is reliable (for example, an official public page).
  • Check if major media outlets have reprinted the news
  • If the news is old, the source is unclear, and the media does not have the news – it should not be trusted.
What communication professionals can do:
  • Monitor similar cases of strategic communication.
  • Analyze the mechanism of information dissemination and look for countermeasures.
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