quotes, comments, social media
Image: Alex Shuper / Unsplash+

Fake anti-Ukraine celebrity quotes recently surged on social media

Researchers have discovered a campaign attributed to a pro-Kremlin disinformation network that spread thousands of images on social media with fake anti-Ukraine quotes falsely credited to celebrities, including Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson and Elton John.

The operators of an operation called Doppelgänger by Western researchers published 120,000 fake anti-Ukraine quotes around June 14-15 — and quickly garnered almost half a million views, according to the nonprofit initiative Bot Blocker, which shared its research with Russian independent media outlet Agentstvo.

The campaign appeared to begin with Doppelgänger publishing 50 celebrity-oriented posts on the social media platform X and then retweeting them thousands of times. The posts were published in English, French, German and Polish. Images of Angelina Jolie, Luc Besson, Lionel Messi and Elisabeth Debicki also were used in the campaign. 

Most of the fake quotes contained calls to forget about Ukraine and stop providing aid to Kyiv amid its war with Russia. Bot Blocker connects the start of the latest Doppelgänger campaign with the parliamentary elections in the European Union earlier in June. Many fake celebrity quotes echoed the Kremlin's claim that “Europe is falling apart.”

This is not the first time Doppelgänger — one of the most prolific Russian disinformation networks — has used celebrity images to spread anti-Ukraine disinformation. Bot Blocker said that it’s the sixth operation of this kind discovered over the past six months.

Earlier in December, Doppelgänger ran a similar campaign on Meta’s Facebook and X using fake ads that showed photos of famous celebrities, including Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and Cristiano Ronaldo, with fake quotes criticizing Ukraine layered on top of them.

Russian attempts to spread disinformation can take many forms. A recent report by Finnish company Check First revealed that Russian threat actors deliberately flood newsrooms with fake content to overwhelm fact-checkers.

In an ongoing campaign, dubbed “Operation Overload” by Check First, Russian actors send journalists verification requests usually targeting Ukraine, France and Germany with the aim of “depleting their resources and exploiting credible information ecosystems to disseminate the Kremlin’s political agenda.” 

The threat actors targeted more than 800 news organizations in Europe and other countries with around 2,400 tweets and more than 200 emails, Check First said.

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Daryna Antoniuk

Daryna Antoniuk

is a reporter for Recorded Future News based in Ukraine. She writes about cybersecurity startups, cyberattacks in Eastern Europe and the state of the cyberwar between Ukraine and Russia. She previously was a tech reporter for Forbes Ukraine. Her work has also been published at Sifted, The Kyiv Independent and The Kyiv Post.