Russians use cartoons to influence midterms

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Russians use cartoons to influence midterms

Graphikaa network analysis company, published a report on foreign players, especially Russian ones,
trying to influence the midterm elections in the United States which includes the use of political cartoons.

Excerpt from the Graphika report:

Main conclusions

  • The alleged Russian actors are engaged in a renewed effort to target far-right audiences in the United States with politically controversial posts ahead of November’s midterm elections.

  • This includes direct attempts to undermine support for Democratic candidates in Pennsylvania, Georgia, New York and Ohio. Other stories promoted by the network include inflammatory posts on sensitive cultural and political issues, as well as criticism of President Joe Biden.

  • These narratives are primarily advanced via a series of political cartoons, which we believe were likely created by the actors and are almost certainly destined to go viral. Similar cartoons released by this campaign have already achieved significant levels of engagement from genuine online communities.

Based on behavioral and content indicators, we previously attributed this activity with medium confidence to actors behind the Newsroom for American and European Based Citizens (NAEBC), a fake right-wing media outlet that targeted American audiences before the 2020 presidential election. The NAEBC was assigned by Meta to individuals associated with past activities of the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA), an assessment reportedly shared by US law enforcement.

While the main assets of the network began to be published again in August-September of this year, a notable change in the TTPs at this time was the absence of distinctive political cartoons, which we believe are probably original content created by players. These caricatures were a mainstay of previous campaign activities and usually bore the signature of the artist “Schmitz”. It is unclear whether Schmitz is a real artist whose work has been re-appropriated or a fictional character.

Since Oct. 29, however, a network asset on has shared six new Schmitz cartoons in quick succession. These cartoons appear to be an attempt to directly target American political discourse online ahead of the November election. All six promote narratives that criticize and disparage Democratic candidates in tight election races, particularly Raphael Warnock and Stacey Abrams in Georgia, Tim Ryan in Ohio, Kathy Hochul in New York and John Fetterman in Pennsylvania.

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