The second site pushed by Doppelganger bots targeted Germans. In October 2022, an investigation by the German newspaper Die Welt found that the author of content on the EuroBRICS site was being paid directly by InfoRos, which is registered as the operator of the EuroBRICs website by the German domain registrar.
Many of the same images from Doppelganger’s campaign, along with others targeting an English-speaking audience, were also shared on X by the same network of bots that have previously shared links to the Doppelganger campaigns.
“We collected a whopping 75-plus fake quotes by celebrities from the US and EU, all massively posted recently by bots of Doppelganger, the pro-Kremlin influence campaign,” one of the researchers at Antibot4Navalny tells WIRED.
The campaign on X, which coincided with the Facebook campaign, used over 10,000 bot accounts, according to the researchers. In the space of one eight-hour period, the bots posted over 27,000 messages. At one point, the bot accounts were posting 120 messages every minute.
The posts on X are identical to those posted as ads on Facebook identified by Reset, except that some of these posts were in English. The X campaign also featured mocked-up versions of celebrities’ verified Instagram accounts, making it seem as if screenshots of celebrity Instagram accounts, using similar anti-Ukraine quotes, were being shared.
X did not respond to a request for comment from WIRED about the Doppelganger campaign. Since Elon Musk took control of the platform in October 2022, he has eliminated most of the company’s trust and safety team, and disinformation has flourished on the site, especially around breaking news events like the recent Israel-Hamas war.
One of Reset’s researchers, who did not want to be identified to protect their identity from retaliatory attacks, tells WIRED that, in recent days, researchers have seen Doppelganger’s celebrity-based campaign evolve. Some ads on Facebook now, like the ones on X, feature screenshots that appear to show verified Instagram accounts of the same celebrities, adding a further layer of authenticity to the campaign. In one case, a screenshot of a fake Instagram post from the entrepreneur Richard Branson suggests that he believes America was behind the Nord Stream explosion.
The researcher also found video ads that feature real footage of celebrities with fake audio dubbed over the top, which they say have been created with text-to-speech apps. The researchers at Reset were unable to identify which app was being used to automate the creation of the videos. One example reviewed by WIRED showed footage of German filmmaker Wim Wenders speaking in English about his own films, dubbed to make it appear as if he was speaking in French about how “the Ukrainians are ruined.” The ad was posted to Facebook on November 25 and was seen by up to 3,000 people before it was removed for failing to have the “required disclaimer,” according to Facebook’s ad library.