The Russia-linked influence operation known as Doppelganger has been actively targeting audiences in Ukraine, the U.S., and Germany. This operation employs a combination of inauthentic news sites and social media accounts to amplify content that undermines Ukraine and spreads anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, questions U.S. military competence, and highlights Germany’s economic and social issues. Described as the “largest and most aggressively-persistent Russian-origin operation” by Meta, Doppelganger utilizes advanced obfuscation techniques and likely employs generative AI to create inauthentic news articles.
The evolving tactics of Doppelganger shed light on the use of AI in information warfare. Doppelganger has been linked to two companies, Structura National Technologies and Social Design Agency, and has been active since at least February 2022. The campaigns associated with Doppelganger leverage manufactured websites and employ brandjacking to disseminate adversarial narratives.
The influence operation has recently incorporated advanced obfuscation techniques, including manipulating social media thumbnails and strategic website redirects, possibly using generative AI to create misleading news articles. Despite these efforts, the actual reach of the campaigns appears limited, lacking significant engagement from authentic social media users. One notable aspect of Doppelganger’s U.S. and German campaigns is the use of inauthentic media outlets such as Election Watch, MyPride, Warfare Insider, Besuchszweck, Grenzezank, and Haüyne Scherben. These outlets publish malign content as original news and opinion, demonstrating the deceptive tactics employed by the influence operation.
However, the impact of these campaigns seems negligible, with limited engagement and viewership from authentic social media users. Meta’s quarterly Adversarial Threat Report revealed a new cluster of websites linked to Doppelganger focused on U.S. and European political affairs. These websites mimic mainstream U.S. news outlets, questioning U.S. democracy and promoting conspiratorial themes. While Meta took steps to disrupt covert influence operations, proactive threat sharing by the U.S. federal government has been paused since July 2023, limiting valuable information to counter malicious foreign campaigns. In summary, Doppelganger exemplifies the adaptability and scalability of Russian information warfare, employing strategic patience to gradually influence public opinion. Despite disruptive efforts, the influence operation persists, emphasizing the challenges posed by sophisticated threat actors in the realm of disinformation.