The Italian pro-Russia digital ecosystem on Telegram
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The Cyber, Milano
ITSTIME, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Intern
These authors had equal contribution to this work
Publication date: 2023-10-31
Cybersecurity and Law 2023;10(2):299–317
The dissemination of pro-Russia ideologies and associated visual motifs has become widespread and transversal, encompassing various communities within the digital ecosystem. This trend has been linked to the related cognitive warfare that targets public opinion, manipulates information, and undermines the credibility of democratic institutions. Regarding the Italian context, the period from 2019 to 2023 saw a dramatic increase in the number of actors promoting pro-Russia narratives. They included members of the novax and no-greenpass movements, conspiracy theorists, far-right organizations, neo-Nazi groups, and ultras. Concurrently, the digital ecosystem has contributed the spread of violent content and anti-establishment propaganda online. In order to identify and explore the Italian digital ecosystem affected by pro-Russia ideologies, this study exploits a combination of exponential discriminative snowball sampling and social network analysis techniques on the Telegram instant messaging service. Through this approach, this research provides insight into the organizational structure and dynamics of the network, identifying key actors and their relationships, and the dissemination patterns of pro-Russia and anti-establishment propaganda. This study proposes a new research methodology to study digital ecosystems permeated by cognitive warfare campaigns and provides a deeper understanding of the mechanisms through which such content is propagated, enabling the development of effective strategies for countering disinformation and promoting fact-based discourse.
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