If you were a pro-Kremlin disinformer with writer’s block, where might you turn for inspiration?

Think about Denmark. Its animal world will never let you down.

It may seem surprising at the first sight, but disinformation is frequently seeking inspiration from the zoology of Denmark. This week Sputnik in English claimed that Denmark collects people’s unwanted house pets as feed for carnivores. It describes lively how “for those willing to do away with their pet, hungry predators at the Copenhagen Zoo and Givskud Zoo are more than ready to take over”.

In fact, you can’t just drop off animals, and the practise is not a way for people to get rid of unwanted pets.  It is not unusual to feed predators with euthanized animals, and correct feeding is one of the prerequisites for animals thriving.

So, far from being a surprise, this example of fabrication shows the pattern of disinformation at work. Using the already existing prejudices of the audience, the article magnifies the distorted picture of Denmark as an exceptionally cruel place for animals. And this is not the first time.

Sputnik illustrated its disinformation article with a Tweet from 2014, when Russian media covered extensively a story of a giraffe in a Danish zoo being euthanised and dissected.

Censoring threats

Take the Øresund Bridge from Denmark to Sweden, and a whole different collection of preconceptions are at the disposal of the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign.

A Georgian disinformation outlet distorted a BBC interview with the head of Sweden’s security service, Anders Thornberg, and cut out the parts where he warned about foreign political interference ahead of the election there: “It’s very important for us to follow this and we are not shy in Sweden – we say that the biggest threat to our security in that perspective is Russia,” Mr Thornberg sayed. But in Georgian disinformation, the only threat Thornberg was referring to was the increased threat of extremism – supporting the idea of Sweden as a country on the verge of war because of migration.

In Russian, the same expectations of the audience were nourished with a different story: that Sweden introduces a new law that will require persons involved in sexual relations to record or write a statement that both are agreeing to sex – all this due to the many rapes committed by migrants in Sweden. Ria Novosti frames the article by revising a Russian proverb: “What is easier? To change the migration policy or frighten your own people so that others would be afraid?” The article misinterprets how democratic decision-making works and misleads the reader into thinking that what Sweden would really want to do is punish migrants, but what it is instead doing is imposing restrictions on the sex-lives of all Swedish citizens.

Ukraine and the US as targets

This week, the disinformation campaign was active also in exaggerating Ukraine’s troubles. We heard that citizens of Ukraine are deported from the EU in masses. The only problem is that the figures presented in the disinformation article do not support this conclusion.  Similarly unsubstantiated was the claim that the European Commission is accusing Ukraine of flooding the EU with heroin.

The US, as another traditional target of the disinformation campaign, was again accused without evidence of training and arming Isis and blocking humanitarian aid in Syria.

In the end, what is the impact of this disinformation campaign? Levada, an independent Russian pollster, published one answer on the impact for the Russian audience on Wednesday. According to the poll, 66% of the Russian respondents believe that Russia has enemies. And the top 3 coincide exactly with the most frequent targets of disinformation: 1. USA (68%), 2. Ukraine (29%), 3. Europe / European Union (14%).


related disinfo cases

08.01.2018
Vesti @Rossiya 1, 24:06
Moldova, Russia, EU
27.12.2017
Geworld.ge
Israel, US, Georgia
07.01.2018
Alt-info.com
Russia, Georgia, Sweden
08.01.2018
Vesti @Rossiya 1, 07:34
Russia, US
23.12.2017
RIA Novosti
Ukraine, EU
25.12.2017
Argumenti y fakti, Ukraina.ru
Russia, Estonia, Lithuania, EU
29.12.2017
Rossiya 1
Ukraine
26.12.2017
Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia in Komsomolskaya Pravda
Russia, US, Syria
26.12.2017
Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia in Komsomolskaya Pravda
Russia, US, Syria
08.01.2017
Sputnik Moldova
Europe, UK, The West
01.01.2018
Andrei Klimov, Deputy Chairman, Russian Federation Council foreign affairs committee
Russia, Ukraine, Georgia
20.12.2017
Komsomolskaya Pravda
France
19.12.2017
Transnistrian News, Point.md, Eadaily.com, RTR Moldova, Bloknot-moldova.md, Pravdanews.info, Mirtesen.ru, Ruposters.ru
Moldova, Russia, US
21.12.2017
Zvezda TV
Europe, Ukraine, EU
15.12.2017
Ria.ru
Russia
20.12.2017
Sputnik. Aside from Sputnik, TASS, Pravda.ru, RIA Novosti, Rambler and other pro-Kremlin sites carried this fake story.
Ukraine
22.12.2017
Sputnik
Denmark
17.12.2017
Zen.yandex.ru
India, China, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Poland
28.12.2017
Aeronet.cz
Czech Republic
03.01.2018
vlasteneckenoviny.cz
Czech Republic
07.12.2017
https://cz.sputniknews.com
Czech Republic, Russia
26.12.2017
Georgia and the World
Europe, Russia, US
26.12.2017
Georgia and the World
US
25.12.2017
RIA Novosti
Sweden