In this issue of the Virtual Manipulation Brief, we identified 117 pro-Kremlin accounts—including notorious Z bloggers—who purchased verified status on X. This meant they could monetise fake news through X’s ad revenue-sharing feature. It also boosted their visibility – the newly verified propaganda accounts received more than twice as many views per post, on average.
We also examine VKontakte’s evolution into a multi-purpose platform, the Kremlin’s ‘everything app’. VK has expanded to incorporate features mimicking major Western platforms. It aligns closely with governmental interests and has become an essential tool in Russia’s digital infrastructure.
The report is concluded with the overview of the latest developments in social media manipulation, from the deluge of fake photos claiming to show scenes of suffering in Gaza to the emerging trend of artificial audio content targeting political opponents.