The Russian embassy’s post accusing a pregnant bombing victim of being a crisis actor has been removed.
As Russia’s violent invasion of neighbouring Ukraine intensifies, a slew of diplomatic Twitter accounts are spreading false information, but they may not get away with it for long.
Twitter took action against one especially offensive remark on Thursday, suggesting that a pregnant victim leaving the scene of a hospital blast in Mariupol was an actress wearing “some extremely accurate makeup.” The account belongs to Russia’s London embassy, which has been aggressively circulating misleading information regarding Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine.
Responding to a photo of a pregnant woman in the aftermath of the attack, @RussianEmbassy tweeted.
“… She has some very realistic make-up. She is also doing well with her beauty blogs. Plus she could not be in the maternity house at the time of the strike, as it has long been taken by the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion who told all the staff to clear the place.”
The fraudulent accusations appear to have begun on Russian-language Telegram groups, in which a Ukrainian blogger present at the hospital was accused of impersonating two distinct pregnant ladies at the bombing site. Russia continues to deny and misrepresent its military aggression in Ukraine, frequently with readily refuted falsehoods. However, that information continues to circulate in the disinformation ecosystem, gaining traction and driving the spread of even more ludicrous claims.
At least three tweets from the Russian Embassy in London have been deleted from Twitter in the last twenty-four hours for breaking the platform’s rules. Despite this, a pinned tweet at the top of the embassy’s feed accuses Ukraine of “exterminating” the inhabitants of two eastern Ukrainian districts where the local authority is backed by the Russian authorities.
The word “extermination” is reminiscent of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s deceptive excuse for initiating war on Ukraine. Last month, Putin said, “What is happening in the Donbas now is genocide,” setting the basis for the invasion.
It’s not the first time Russia has used its virtual embassy to promote its own narrative.
The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab looked at how the Russian government employs a “whole spectrum” of official and unauthorized accounts to spread its skewed messaging online.
On Thursday, Twitter took a stronger stance against at least one other notable misinformation source, suspending @asbmilitary, an account that actively promoted the baseless conspiracy theory that the US had biological weapons facilities in Ukraine. The Biden administration is concerned that a surge in bioweapon-related disinformation might signal a Russian chemical-weapons assault in the United States.