Russia floods Africa with fake news

Russia floods Africa with fake news

international5 May 24 19:57Autor: Mark Van Harveld

Russia is the main spreader of disinformation in Africa, reports the African Center for Strategic Studies. According to the research center of the US Department of Defense, Russia is sponsoring up to 80 campaigns targeting more than 22 countries. This represents nearly 40 percent of all disinformation campaigns in Africa.

Vladimir Putin’s flag is raised during a pro-Russian demonstration in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. (Afghan National Police/AFP)

Hit ACSS He describes the spread of misinformation as a “fundamental challenge to stable and prosperous African societies” and notes a “sharp increase in its use for political purposes.” The center documented 189 disinformation campaigns in Africa, a four-fold increase from 2022. According to the researchers, this is probably a significant underestimate, given the ambiguous nature of many disinformation campaigns.

Cheap but powerful

According to the African Council for Strategic Studies, no African region has been spared from disinformation campaigns, and at least 39 African countries have been targeted by a specific campaign. The main players are Russia, China, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In that order, ACSS Research Director Joseph Siegel said in an interview Voice of America. “About 60 percent of all documented campaigns we identified are sponsored by foreign countries. They do so because it is a cheap but powerful asymmetric way to gain influence.

Champion of Russia

However, according to the think tank, Russia is the main spreader of fake news and disinformation in Africa; They represent about 80 campaigns, targeting more than 22 countries (accounting for about 40 percent of all disinformation campaigns in Africa). Controlling the state, obtaining raw materials and selling weapons, Siegel chronicles Russia’s motivations for undermining democracy and supporting military juntas.

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Influencers

To illustrate, the Kremlin sponsors two prominent African influencers who together serve more than 28 million users and followers on social media. Its content is amplified daily by a vast network of hundreds of Russia-linked accounts and pages whose content focuses on locations of strategic importance to Russia, such as the Sahel region. For example, coups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger were preceded by widespread (and highly successful) anti-France and anti-EU campaigns on social media.

“By shaping narratives about what is happening on the ground, it influences how the public interprets events and has direct implications for governance standards and policies,” he said. Siegel. “Many of these campaigns aim to support military juntas or authoritarian governments with whom these foreign actors have ties, allowing them to exert greater influence.”

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impact

The reach (and therefore impact) of disinformation campaigns can be significant. Over the past seven years, about 300 million Africans have found their way onto social media, bringing the number of active social media users to 400 million, while the continent has about 600 million internet users. Social media platforms are used more (and trusted) to consume news in Africa than anywhere else in the world.

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Russian campaigns in the past decade have paid off, says Kevin Lemonnier, a specialist in Russian cyberspace and lecturer at the French Institute of Geopolitics in Paris. If Russia did not initially have a very strong image in Africa, that image has completely changed. According to Lemonnier Moscow has succeeded in positioning itself as an ally of anti-colonial and “pan-Africanist” parties and figures in Africa. This rhetoric has already borne fruit in the Central African Republic, and more recently in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, the three neighboring Sahel countries where pro-Russian military juntas have been in power since the coup.

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