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Opinion
Parmy Olson

The Fog of War Is Spreading at Warp Speed Online

From old videos of tanks to dubious internet fundraisers, fake news is moving faster than ever amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The real Twitter account of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense is displayed.

The real Twitter account of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense is displayed.

Photographer: NurPhoto/NurPhoto

Before Russian forces launched the first missile at Ukraine, the online conflict was already underway. Russia is well-versed in the methods of spreading lies, most notably with the social media bots and trolls it used to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election, and its very justification for invasion is based on a disinformation campaign — the need to “protect” civilians in separatist regions despite no evidence they were under attack. But the confusion is also being fueled by other actors in the U.S. and Europe, grubbily seeking to capitalize on the world’s attention.

In just one example of what appeared to be coordinated disinformation from Moscow, Bill Blain, a U.K.-based market strategist with a popular newsletter, said Friday that he’d been getting a flood of emails that purported to be from ex-U.S. servicemen, all with suspiciously similar comments assailing his critical comments about Russia. He found many of same comments sprinkled on other websites like ZeroHedge. “Not terribly subtle,” he noted in his newsletter.