The 9pm Polystomatous Russian Disinformation Campaign with Elise Thomas

Elise Thomas looks into the camera, unaware of the out-of-focus Russia sneaking up behind her. (Photo: supplied. Background image: Worldometer. Digital composition: Stilgherrian.)

As the war in Ukraine continues, Russian disinformation is becoming somewhat unhinged. Joining me to explore that further is Elise Thomas, freelance journalist and OSINT analyst with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

In this episode we also talk about Russian disinformation operations in Africa, the future of open-source intelligence, the Russian bureaucracy in occupied Ukraine, and why the French are Nazis. We even touch upon the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. And how could we not talk about Elon Musk and all the changes at Twitter?

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This episode it’s many thanks to Karletta Abianac, Katrina Szetey, and Stuart Hargreaves.

And more generally, thanks to everyone who supported The 9pm Hardware Refresh 2023. You’ll all be listed on this website when we start organising for forthcoming Public House Forum episodes in March and April.

  • Freelance journalist, OSINT analyst at @ISDGlobal, observer of internet weirdness. Opinions my own, RTs =/= endorsements.
  • Powering solutions to extremism, hate and disinformation.
  • [6 February 2023] Some jawdroppingly shameless rewriting of history from Russian state TV's Dmitry Kiselyov tonight: "Back then, 80 years ago, it was in Stalingrad that we beat back the onslaught of the collective West against our country... All of Europe was on the side of fascist Germany"
  • World War Two dives into the history of one of the most devastating wars in human history. Indy Neidell, Spartacus Olsson and their team of dedicated historians cover the events of World War Two week by week in realtime. Additionally, we take an in-depth look at the war against humanity, key figures in all camps, military hardware, impact on culture, military strategies and life at the home fronts or under occupation.
  • [6 February 2023] In Serbia we learned that WW2 started in 1941. The Molotov-Ribbentrop years didn’t count. I wonder why that is.
  • Disinformation is false or misleading information that is spread deliberately to deceive. This is a subset of misinformation. The English word disinformation is a loan translation of the Russian dezinformatsiya, derived from the title of a KGB black propaganda department.
  • The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was a non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that enabled those powers to partition Eastern Europe between them. The pact was signed in Moscow on 23 August 1939 by German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and was officially known as the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Unofficially, it has also been referred to as the Hitler–Stalin Pact, Nazi–Soviet Pact or Nazi–Soviet Alliance.
  • This revelatory and dramatic history of disinformation traces the rise of secret organized deception operations from the interwar period to contemporary internet troll farms.
  • Thomas Rid (born 1975) is a political scientist best known for his work on the history and risks of information technology in conflict. He is Professor of Strategic Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Previously he was a professor of security studies at the Department of War Studies, King's College London.
  • [1 April 2012. This is the podcast I recorded with Thomas Rid, but the audio files are no longer online. If they reappear I will update this link. If you want to listen to it then I can send it to you privately.] Richard Clarke, head of counter-terrorism for three US presidents, says cyberwar is already upon us. The FBI's cyber chief Shawn Henry says we're already losing to the hackers. But are they right?
  • [3 February 2023] How Putin twists the history of World War II
  • To the extent that any unified theory of Russian information warfare actually exists, its core tenet might well be that regime security has historically been indivisible from information warfare in Russian strategic thought. Rather than an aggressive or expansionist expression of Moscow’s foreign policy, the Kremlin’s so-called information war should primarily be viewed through a domestic and regime security prism—it’s as much a counterinsurgency as an expeditionary strategy, less an escalation than a projection. Analysts and decisionmakers should therefore avoid reflexively casting the United States and the West as Russia’s primary antagonists in its information war, as doing so risks reinforcing these insecurities and exaggerating Moscow’s degree of power in the information ecosystem.
  • [23 September 2022] Introducing the ‘Life under Occupation’ series. Kherson was the first major Ukrainian city to face Russian occupation in late February 2022. Now, it is a test case for the Kremlin’s forced assimilation of Ukrainian cities into Russia
  • [21 October 2022] Eight months later, and despite the effective counteroffensive launched by Kyiv, the region is still controlled by the Kremlin and its Ukrainian marionettes.
  • [22 January 2023] Part Three in the ‘Life under Occupation’ series - a detailed analysis of everyday life in occupied Kherson.
  • [6 February 2023] Aid to Ukraine has evolved dramatically since February 2022, and there are few topics that have attracted more constant press coverage away from the battlefield itself. So today I try and set out how aid has evolved, who the major contributors are, and the impact aid has had - and may have in 2023.
  • [2 February 2023] A large social network that promotes anti-Western and pro-Kremlin ideas is helping Russia expand its influence at the expense of France in some of its former colonies in Africa. Called Russosphère (Russian Sphere), typical posts accuse France of modern-day "colonialism", eulogise Vladimir Putin, and call the Ukrainian army "Nazis" and "Satanists", echoing the official Russian line.
  • [2 February 2023] A large social network that promotes anti-Western and pro-Kremlin ideas in French-speaking Africa has been discovered. Called Russosphère (Russian Sphere), it posts typically accuse France of modern-day “colonialism”, praises President Vladimir Putin, and calls the Ukrainian army “Nazis" and "Satanists." Experts have said that such misinformation drives mistrust between African nations and the West.
  • [23 March 2019] What happens when the same techniques used to interfere with U.S. elections are adapted to a war zone in the heart of Africa? The results are brutal.
  • [25 January 2023] After nearly a decade in prison, the Wagner group founder’s ascent was extraordinary. But where does the ceiling of his ambition lie? Some of those who knew him describe his path to power
  • [27 January 2023] Bloomberg said it viewed a screenshot of the message in question, involving the account of Chad Loder, which read: "Suspension: direct request from Elon Musk."
  • [9 February 2023] Yoel Roth testifies before congressional committee that Elon Musk’s release of company’s internal records led to harassment.
  • A company which provides users with an icon which they can paste over an avatar or profile photo on a social networking site, indicating the user's support for a given cause, group, brand, etc.
  • The Internet Research Agency (IRA; Russian: ????????? ????????-????????????, romanized: Agentstvo internet-issledovaniy), also known as Glavset (Russian: ????????) and known in Russian Internet slang as the Trolls from Olgino (Russian: ?????????? ??????), is a Russian company engaged in online propaganda and influence operations on behalf of Russian business and political interests. It is linked to Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin and based in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
  • [18 November 2022] Rybar, a pro-Kremlin military analysis channel on Telegram, has been cited by the world's top news agencies, and it's easy to understand why: the channel seems to have access to a wide network of informants whose claims are difficult to ignore, if impossible to verify. But despite its influence, Rybar's administrators have remained anonymous throughout the war. In a new investigation, however, journalists from the independent Russian news outlet The Bell uncovered key information about the channel's creators, its funding, and its contributors. In English, Meduza summarizes their findings.
  • Expertise: Satellite data, Open Source intelligence. Nathan is a analyst with ASPI's International Cyber Policy Centre. 
  • [21 August 2019] You'll know Nathan Ruser as the Strava student, the one who rocked the world's security agencies last year by pointing out the visibility of regular exercise routes for US troops at their base in Syria, using data from exercise app Strava he found posted on Twitter.
  • [3 February 2023] If you spend any time on social media, listen to podcasts, or generally pay attention to the news, chances are you’ve heard of ChatGPT. The chatbot, launched by OpenAI in November, can write code, draft business proposals, pass exams, and generate guides on making Molotov cocktails. It has rapidly become one of those occasional technologies that attract so much attention and shape so many conversations that they seem to define a particular moment. It may also quickly become a threat to national security and raises a host of concerns over its potential to spread disinformation at an unprecedented rate.
  • [6 February 2023] A Personal Perspective: Shadows can be beacons of truth.
  • [1 February 2023] Bad actors use artificial intelligence to propagate falsehoods and upset elections, but the same tools can be repurposed to defend the truth.

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