Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

I Watched Over 100 Covert Russian Propaganda Videos On YouTube — Here’s What I Saw

The first examination of the actual videos produced by the Russian troll farm in St. Petersburg, Russia, aka Glavset.  

Many examples are included in the article which is way too long and too detailed for me to archive here.

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By Caroline O

The videos encouraged African Americans to stock up on guns and stay home on election day — and that was just the beginning.

“My advice to Black people is not to go out and vote. The best thing you can do is stay home [on election day].”

This was what video bloggers Williams and Kalvin Johnson told viewers on their YouTube page on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016 — the day of the presidential election. Claiming to be from Atlanta, the duo, who call themselves “Williams and Kalvin,” tried to convince African American voters that there was no point in voting and it didn’t matter who won the election. The best way to make your voice heard, they said, was to boycott the election.

“We don’t have any other choice this time but boycott the election. Don’t go to vote. Only this way we can change the way of things.”

As you’ve probably figured out by now, Williams and Kalvin are not really video bloggers from Atlanta — they’re paid propagandists working for the Kremlin.

The Daily Beast first reported on the YouTube “stars” in another stunning exposé published Sunday night, less than two weeks after their explosive report detailing how Russians stole the identity of a U.S. Muslim organization in an attempt to smear Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

According to The Daily Beast, investigators have identified the social media pages of Williams and Kalvin as part of the Russian effort to influence U.S. politics and, more broadly, to infiltrate and divide American society. The duo’s content was pulled from Facebook and Twitter in August after it was identified as Russian government-backed propaganda, but their YouTube videos remained live through mid-October.

While their YouTube account was taken down Monday, I managed to watch over 100 videos produced by Williams and Kalvin before they were removed. What I saw was a deeply disturbing (albeit poorly executed) effort to demoralize African American voters and exploit existing racial tensions in America with inflammatory — sometimes extremist — anti-government messages, graphic imagery, and a targeted smear campaign against Hillary Clinton, among other things.

The videos provide new insight into the ongoing Russian influence campaign, which, as we now know, was not limited to ‘fake news’ and hacked emails, but also extended to real life events including anti-immigrant/anti-Muslim ralliesand pro-Trump flash mobs organized by Russian government-backed groups. The production value of the videos was poor and their attempt to reach out to African Americans was clumsy and awkward, but the methods of deception and manipulation they deployed were sophisticated and revealing.

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