Analysis of the FTX-Ukraine conspiracy theory
The historically strong support Ukraine has received from Republicans goes unacknowledged. Although the Obama administration refused to arm and effectively support Ukraine after the 2014 invasion, the former-Vice-President-turned President is depicted as having always given Ukraine anything it needed.
Russia’s use of conspiracy theories as a tool of statecraft is not new, and Russia has renewed its efforts to use sympathetic voices in Europe and the United States. This story contains common ideas and elements from previous disinformation.
- The story spread by Russian and Chinese accounts in March 2022 first appeared in 2017, though a similar story about Georgia appeared earlier. A pro-Kremlin hacking collective called CyberBerkut (recognized as a GRU front organization) published the story, as did Russian state media. Later, the FSB-controlled outlet SouthFront also published this false story.
- The FTX-Ukraine conspiracy theory touches on familiar themes like US government corruption, political elites lying to the public, Ukraine as a bad actor, and an element of data-void exploitation. In 2016, we saw elected officials make similar false claims about donations from Ukraine.
An influencer boosting conspiracy theories about Ukraine signed a $6.8 mil deal with Russian state media in August 2022
- Swann ranked in the top 5 users for “Authority” using Hyperlink-Induced Topic Search (HITS).
- Other popular tweets came from users with a history of platform manipulation, who promoted “Pizzagate,” deep state conspiracy theories, Nord Stream conspiracy theories, or promoted false election claims in 2020.
- Axios described the Swann as a “Pizzagate promoter” who “also promoted conspiracy theories surrounding the 9/11 attacks and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.”
- Open Secrets reported Ben Swann’s $6.8 mil deal with Russian state-funded TV Novosti in August 2022.
- Others who have worked for the Russian state, like Jimmy Dore, have also promoted the claims. George Galloway also appeared in the top 100 for HITS.
- Zero Hedge, identified as a pro-Kremlin amplifier by multiple independent researchers and the federal government, also promoted it. The Duran, another that researchers say amplifies pro-Kremlin content, had a video in the top 25 links identified.