Twitter trolls counter Putin propaganda with memes

Russia At War

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting via teleconference call, in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Aug. 22, 2022. (Pavel Byrkin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

(NewsNation) — A group of internet cyberwarriors, sometimes referred to as trolls, has taken on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s online propaganda machine by attacking it with memes.

The “North Atlantic Fellas Organization” or NAFO, considers itself a group of civilian propagandists with one mission in mind — countering Russian misinformation and propaganda online with pro-Ukraine memes.

Ivana Stradner, a member of NAFO and former Harvard scholar, told NewsNation the group counters Russian propaganda with “humor, satire and unsophisticated and sophisticated means.”

Stradner does not have exact figures on how many people are in NAFO, but can conclude the group is growing based on the number of Shiba Inu memes flooding pro-Russian accounts on Twitter.

“The Russians are pretty emotional when it comes to countering disinformation. I think the best way to go about it is through humor,” Stradner said Friday on NewsNation’s “On Balance With Leland Vittert.” “We actually managed to close numerous accounts. NAFO fellas are countering misinformation with really funny memes. We are going to a level of absurdity that is really difficult for them to say anything against.”

The Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov has endorsed the work of NAFO, as have Ukrainian soldiers who have taken to plastering some of their tanks with NAFO memes. U.S. Congressman Adam Kinzinger has also supported NAFO.

“This is a really serious thing. We have to talk about Russian disinformation as a serious thing because even Russia’s military considers information as the weapon, and we should treat it as such,” Stradner said.

On an average day, there are more than 5,000 tweets linked to NAFO accounts, according to Politico. The group also uses its platform to do fundraising for Ukrainian troops fighting on the front lines.

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