Russia targeted U.S. military personnel and veterans in a cyber campaign last spring by spreading messages on social media networks that promoted Kremlin propaganda as well as conspiracy theories, according to a new study.
The Oxford University study found that three websites with Kremlin ties — Veteranstoday.com, Veteransnewsnow.com and Southfront.org — engaged in “significant and persistent interactions” with the U.S. military community, McClatchy highlighted Monday.
“We’ve found an entire ecosystem of junk news about national security issues that is deliberately crafted for U.S. veterans and active military personnel,” professor Philip Howard, who led the research in the study, told the newswire.
“It’s a complex blend of content with a Russian view of the world — wild rumors and conspiracies.”
Despite their attempts to gain influence through social media platforms last June, the study found that they did not make “very deep” inroads with the group on Twitter. The sites, however, did have more success with Twitter than Facebook.
Mike Carpenter, a former senior Pentagon official, told McClatchy that the three websites all “appear to be Russian fronts, given the high degree of Russian content.”
Veterans Today, for example, reportedly mixed stories that included advice for veterans on how to find jobs with headlines like “Ukraine’s Ku Klux Klan — NATO’s New Ally.”
Veterans Today began publishing content that came from a news outlet that had ties to the Russian Academy of Sciences, which is chartered by the Russian government, according to the report.
The other two websites, which similarly had Moscow ties, also published Russian propaganda.
News from the study’s findings comes after Facebook revealed last week that Moscow purchased online ads that specifically targeted presidential swing states such as Michigan and Wisconsin as well as specific demographic groups in an attempt to influence the presidential election.
Both the House and Senate intelligence committees are investigating the extent and the success in which Russia disseminated false news or further fanned inflammatory reports.