French cyber experts reveal vast network of Russian disinformation sites

French military and cybersecurity experts have uncovered an extensive network of Moscow-based fake news sites spreading Russian propaganda and disinformation across Western Europe.

Dubbed "Portal Kombat”, the campaign consists of 193 websites targeting audiences in Ukraine, the EU, Britain and the US.

It was exposed by investigators from Viginum, a French government agency that identifies foreign digital interference.

A report by Viginum warned the online manipulation surge by Russia was intended to influence crucial upcoming votes, including the European elections.

The network is mostly focused on shaping the narrative around the conflict in Ukraine, portraying the Russian invasion positively while denigrating Ukraine and its leaders as “corrupt”, “Nazis”, or “incompetent”, Viginum said.

However instead of producing original material, the sites flood the internet with content from Russian and pro-Russian figures on social media, Russian press agencies, and other accounts loyal to Moscow.

Viginum said the network used various channels – including a French Telegram mobile and desktop messaging app, where a pro-Russian channel publishes up to nine articles per hour.

Despite massive content distribution, automation and search engine optimisation, the network has achieved limited success, with an average traffic of 31,000 visits on the five portals in November 2023.

Read more on RFI English

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