Digital Propaganda Campaign Discredits US
Researchers have discovered a digital propaganda campaign focused on spreading false information and inciting hatred against the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Dubbed Ghostwriter, the apparently well-resourced campaign has sought to portray the presence of American and NATO troops in Europe as aggressive and dangerous to local populations.
Tactics used to turn public opinion against the US and NATO include publishing content that accuses both targets of worsening the spread of COVID-19 in Europe.
The campaign, which began in 2017, was discovered by researchers at FireEye, who were unable to ascribe the content created to a single malicious actor or group of actors. Instead, Ghostwriter consists of an “activity set” of malicious content linked by similar behavioral characteristics and personas.
Researchers say that in addition to circulating a litany of untruths, Ghostwriter operations have leveraged entirely fabricated official documents and correspondence to add an appearance of authenticity to their false narratives.
One malicious action featured a fabricated letter presented as having been authored by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that was disseminated by Ghostwriter personas to bolster a narrative suggesting that NATO was planning to withdraw from Lithuania in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a further push to make their claims appear genuine, Ghostwriter operations “have leveraged compromised websites, including legitimate news websites, to publish fabricated content, or used spoofed email accounts to engage in direct outreach and dissemination of content to NATO itself and national organizations and media outlets in the target countries.”
A common theme found among Ghostwriter content is the inclusion of made-up quotes that have been falsely attributed. Some of the campaign’s malicious content has been identified and publicly discredited by European governments.
Researchers stated: “On several occasions, news outlets and government agencies in Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland have issued public statements declaring content and narratives promoted as part of what we identify as Ghostwriter to be untrue and have labeled them to be disinformation or fake news.”
While no unequivocal evidence has been found to date that links the well-funded campaign to any particular person, organization or country, researchers said Ghostwriter propaganda has included “strategic discussion favoring Russia over other world powers.”