Discovery of a pro-Russian propaganda network, what threat against France?

The French agency VIGINUM highlights the existence of a pro-Russian disinformation and propaganda network, "Portal Kombat", to try to influence kyiv's support.

Discovery of a pro-Russian propaganda network, what threat against France?

The French agency VIGINUM highlights the existence of a pro-Russian disinformation and propaganda network, "Portal Kombat", to try to influence kyiv's support. France is particularly concerned.

As fighting between Russia and Ukraine continues, the French organization fighting foreign digital interference, VIGINUM, is highlighting the existence of nearly 200 information portals serving pro-Russian propaganda. This network nicknamed "Portal Kombat" is not without consequences for France, "denigrating the Kiev authorities, in order to influence public opinions, particularly French ones", specifies the General Secretariat of Defense and National Security (SGDSN).

After four months of work, VIGINUM submitted its report. The organization highlights a “structured and coordinated pro-Russian propaganda” network of at least 193 information portals. It indicates in particular that the "sites of this network do not produce any original content but massively relay publications originating mainly from three types of sources: social network accounts of Russian or pro-Russian actors, Russian press agencies and official sites of institutions or local actors".

"The main objective appears to be to cover the Russian-Ukrainian conflict by presenting the "special military operation" positively and by denigrating Ukraine and its leaders. Highly ideologically oriented, these contents expose blatantly inaccurate or misleading narratives which, concerning the portal targeting France, pravda-fr[.]com, is directly participating in polarizing the French-speaking digital public debate” we can read on the SGDSN website.

In detail, a false list of 13 French “mercenaries” who “were in Kharkiv” at the time of a Russian strike on the city was published. Words taken out of context, or even belonging to French political figures, are even used. Like this sentence from Florian Philippot: “Enough! France calls for radical measures against Zelensky!” A media release which in no case binds the French State. So, could this constitute a threat to the French state? Yes, first of all because these publications are massive and automated. 152,000 articles were published in less than three months by the Pravda system. The sites concerned also deal with themes “close to the spheres of French-speaking conspirators”. A way of discrediting French political speech, just like that of the media.

In an interview with Le Figaro, VIGINUM ensures that “the consequences in France” of this pro-Russian disinformation organization “have remained moderate”. The audiences speak for themselves, only 10,700 visits for pravda-fr in November 2023. In Germany, the site totaled 34,400 visits over the same period, and 55,000 in Spain.

Even if France seems more spared than its neighbors, the “network constitutes foreign digital interference” indicates the technical report. Enough to encourage the greatest caution. Although no actor or sponsor has to date been named as being behind these publications, the press release from the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs clearly refers to a “Russian network”. With these latest revelations, the objective of the French authorities is clear: to alert the general public to the dangers of disinformation and to highlight the Kremlin's strategy to weaken the West under the cover of war in Ukraine.

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