Russian state-linked social media exploits Niger coup for influence

Research by Logically, a technology firm dedicated to combating online misinformation, has unveiled a remarkable 6,645% upsurge in content related to Niger on Russian Telegram channels linked to the state or Wagner.

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Social media channels affiliated with the Russian state have launched a concerted effort to leverage the recent military coup in Niger to strengthen Moscow’s sway in the country and potentially create opportunities for intervention. After President Mohamed Bazoum’s ousting by senior army officers, these channels, including those tied to the paramilitary Wagner group, have exhibited a heightened interest in Niger. Despite declining activity on Wagner-linked platforms after the death of Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, other pro-Russian Telegram channels persistently disseminate disinformation about Niger.

Research conducted by Logically, a technology company combating online disinformation, has revealed a staggering 6,645% surge in content related to Niger on Russian Telegram channels linked to the state or Wagner, indicating Moscow’s strategic intent to capitalize on the turmoil.

The research emphasizes the Kremlin’s aim to maintain continuity in influence operations and business networks, including those established by Yevgeny Prigozhin. Russian-associated accounts continue to exploit the situation, suggesting a concerted effort to capitalize on the coup’s aftermath and enhance Russian influence. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that while he didn’t believe Russia instigated the coup, they did attempt to take advantage of it.

Why does it matter?

This case underscores the significance of addressing disinformation and online influence campaigns, given their potential to profoundly affect a country’s stability and sovereignty. Recent examples, such as the riot occurred in Brazil on January 8th, which bore resemblances to the US Capitol riot on January 6th, 2021, where rioters, fueled by conspiracy theories and extremist ideas, sought military intervention to overturn election results, highlight the urgent need for robust measures against such threats.