A network of more than two dozen conspiracy theorists, frequently backed by a coordinated Russian campaign, sent thousands of disinformation tweets to distort the reality of the Syrian conflict and deter intervention by the international community, new analysis reveals.
Data gathered by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) identified a network of social media accounts, individuals, outlets and organisations who disseminated disinformation about the conflict, with 1.8 million people following their every word. The three principal false narratives promoted by the network of conspiracy theorists involved misrepresenting the White Helmets, the volunteer organisation working to evacuate people in Syria. They also focused on the denial or distortion of facts about the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons and on attacking the findings of the world’s foremost chemical weapons watchdog.
The White Helmets became a target of Russian ire after documenting incidents such as the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun in 2017, which killed 92 people, a third of them children. A UN unit later concluded there were “reasonable grounds to believe that Syrian forces dropped a bomb dispersing sarin” on the town in Idlib province.
The new analysis, contained in a report by The Syria Campaign, also found that official Russian government accounts played a key role in creating and spreading false content, with the Russian embassy to the UK and Syria playing a prominent role. [Continue reading…]