BBC: Russia bans smartphones for soldiers over social media fears. “Russia’s parliament has voted to ban soldiers from using smartphones while on duty, after their social media use raised issues of national security. The bill forbids military personnel from using a phone with the ability to take pictures, record videos and access the internet. Soldiers also cannot write about the military or talk to journalists.”
CNN: Russia is backing a viral video company aimed at American millennials. “Three online video channels designed to appeal to millennials have collected tens of millions of views on Facebook since September. But the pages pushing the videos do not disclose that they are backed by the Russian government. The pages are run by Maffick Media, a company whose majority stakeholder is Ruptly, a subsidiary of RT, which is funded by the Russian government. Although Maffick Media has hired contractors and freelancers in Los Angeles in recent months, the company is not registered in the US, it is registered in Germany.”
University of Hawai’i at Manoa: From Facebook to the Streets: Russian Troll Ads and Black Lives Matter Protests. “Online trolling is typically studied in the IS literature as an uncoordinated, anarchic activity. Coordinated, strategic online trolling is not well understood despite its prevalence on social media. To shed light on this prevailing activity, the present study examines the proposition that coordinated online trolling is timed to leverage macro societal unrest. In testing this proposition, we analyzes the dynamics of the Russian State’s coordinated trolling campaign against the United States beginning in 2015. Using the May 2018 release of all Russian Troll Facebook advertisements, this study constructs a topic model of the content of these ads. The relationship between ad topics and the frequency of Black Lives Matter protests is examined. We argue that the frequency of Black Lives Matter protests proxies for civil unrest and divisiveness in the United States. The study finds that Russian ads related to police brutality were issued to coincide with periods of higher unrest. This work also finds that during periods of relative calm (evidenced by lower frequency of protests) Russian ads were relatively innocuous.” The entire paper is available as a PDF.
National Security Archive: Exploring the Russian Social Media Campaign in Charlottesville. “The existence of social media campaigns connected by U.S. intelligence to the Russian Government and aimed at destabilizing American politics continues to be the topic of much discussion and study, but case studies accessible to most social media users in America are difficult to produce given the scope of these operations. This posting seeks to provide such a case study as it relates to the IRA’s tactic of playing up both sides of a critical issue. While Russian support to the Trump campaign on social media and through the release of information obtained through cyberattack is well recognized, less well known is IRA amplification of political beliefs and voices specifically selected to increase polarization in American discourse.”
Techdirt: Google Caves On Russian Censorship. “Late last year, we were among those disappointed by leaked news from Google that it was toying around with a censored search engine for China — a country that the company had mostly left nearly a decade ago. After loud complaints both from people outside the company and many within, reports in late December said that the company had quietly halted efforts to build a censored Chinese search engine. But now… the company may be dipping its toe in the evil pool again, as it has apparently agreed to cooperate with Russia’s censors.”
Helsinki Times: An Almanac dedicated to the Sami culture will be released in Russia this year. “The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. UNESCO keeps reporting that approximately 600 languages disappear each year. As a result, world globalization smashes many cultures and people literally lose their roots. The Sami is a unique example of indigenous people and culture uniting mainly six countries—Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Ukraine and the USA. They speak six dialects of Sami language. The Zhivaya Classica Foundation from Russia took the initiative to unite the work of Sami authors and poets from different countries in one almanac to be released in May 2019.”
Global Times: Google pays 7,600-USD fine to Russia over banned information. “Google has paid a fine of 500,000 rubles (around 7,616 U.S. dollars) for failing to remove search links to banned information, Russia’s telecommunications watchdog Roskomnadzor said Friday.”