Robotrolling is a quarterly publication.
In this edition of Robotrolling, we expose a coordinated network of bots on Facebook, Twitter, and VK connected to a militaristic YouTube channel. Through our analysis, we discovered that the group of automated accounts is used to spread anti-NATO videos in the pro-Donbass information space. Our findings demonstrate that the video-sharing platform is a ripe target for robotic exploitation.
During this period, the level of Russian-language bot activity decreased on Twitter. Meanwhile, English-language bot activity remained unchanged. On VK, the volume of messaging increased by 8%. Nearly a quarter of unique users engaging with NATO-related topics were identified as bot accounts.
Russian- and English-language conversations about the NATO presence in the Baltic States and Poland peaked on 13 August on both Twitter and VK. On Twitter, English-language bot and anonymous accounts targeted Poland, while the Baltic States received the majority of Russian-language bot attention.
Events commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Second World War attracted significant levels of fake engagement throughout the monitoring period. We observed two recurring anti-NATO narratives circulating in this context: (1) NATO is occupying the Baltic States and Poland, and (2) NATO supports fascism.
Finally, this instalment of Robotrolling provides a glimpse into the flourishing world of commercial social media manipulation or, put simply, bots for hire. In a forthcoming report, we measure the inability of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter to counter online manipulation.