Mira Milosevich, Senior Analyst for Elcano Royal Institute believes Russians influenced Catalonia’s quest for separation from Spain by spreading nationalist propaganda through social media.
Elcano Royal Institute is a research agency that is funded by the Spanish government. Milosevic asserts that Spain’s efforts in quashing the separatist movement in Catalonia were greatly diminished by unidentified Russian hackers who were spreading a combination of factual and fake news in various social media particularly Facebook and Twitter.
According to Milosevic, Russia launched a “dezinformatsiya” campaign whereby content propagating the nationalist agenda were delivered by hired trolls, bots through the use of fake social media accounts. Milosevic also said the campaign was given wide- range coverage by Russia’s state- supported television station and publications.
In an interview, Milosevic shared her opinion that Russia supports nationalist and populist movements throughout Europe because it serves to divide the continent.
This is not the first time Russia has been accused of meddling in the political affairs of another country. The September 25 issue of El Pais ran an article that revealed Russia may have also had a hand in the British voters’ decision for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.
The United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is presently investigating claims Russia intervened in the 2016 Presidential elections to shift voter favour away from Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton and toward Republican candidate Donald Trump.
The allegations of Russian involvement in the U.S. elections have grown stronger in view of purported evidence showing Trump’s ties to Russia. Clinton who has long questioned the fairness of Russian elections has had a contentious relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In 2011, Putin narrowly won his third term as President of Russia. He believes then- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discreetly lent support to the opposition movement.
Among the most influential comments that were spread on Twitter and Facebook came from WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange and American whistle blower Edward Snowden. Paid trolls actively re-tweeted and shared the messages in social media.
One of Assange’s most popularly re-tweeted and shared post said:
“What is happening in Catalonia is the most significant Western conflict between people and the state since the fall of the Berlin Wall – but its methods are 2017, from VPNs, proxies, mirrors and encrypted char to internet surveillance and censorship, bot agenda and body armour.”
Assange sent out the message before the October 1 referendum in Catalonia.