Russian disinformation spreading in new ways despite bans

A man looks at a destroyed Russian tank placed as a symbol of war in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, May 23, 2022. A new report from NewsGuard, a tech firm that tracks disinformation has identified 250 websites actively working to spread Kremlin disinformation.(AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) - After Russia invaded Ukraine last February, the European Union moved to block RT and Sputnik, two of the Kremlin's top channels for spreading propaganda and misinformation about the war.

Nearly six months later, the number of sites pushing that same content has exploded as Russia found ways to evade the ban. They've rebranded their work to disguise it. They've shifted some propaganda duties to diplomats. And they've cut and pasted much of the content on new websites - ones that until now had no obvious ties to Russia.

NewsGuard, a New York-based firm that studies and tracks online misinformation, has now identified 250 websites actively spreading Russian disinformation about the war, with dozens of new ones added in recent months.

Claims on these sites include allegations that Ukraine's army has staged some deadly Russian attacks to curry global support, that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is faking public appearances, or that Ukrainian refugees are committing crimes in Germany and Poland.