BBC Investigation: Twitter Blue Paid Accounts Spread Fakes About the War in Ukraine
Paid Twitter Blue accounts are playing a prominent role in spreading disinformation about the war in Ukraine, exacerbating the already complex situation as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues for over 500 days, reports BBC.
Journalists uncovered four major fakes about Ukraine published by several accounts with blue checkmarks, indicating verified profiles that paid for Twitter Blue to promote their content to other users, accumulating millions of views.
Some of these fake stories can be traced back to Russian government propaganda and Kremlin-controlled media outlets.
The blue checkmark on Twitter, used to denote a verified individual, now simply signifies someone who pays for their account since Elon Musk took over the company.
"The Baby Farms"
The People's Voice, also known as YourNewsWire, one of the largest distributors of fake news, published an article falsely claiming that Russian soldiers discovered Ukrainian "baby farms" where children aged two to seven were "grown on farms" and either sent to "child sex bordellos" or had their organs harvested and sold in the West. BBC found that several Twitter Blue accounts promoted this statement, garnering hundreds of thousands of views.
"French Police Shoot with American Rifles"
Another fake story tracked by BBC in messages posted in pro-Kremlin online groups gained millions of views after several Twitter Blue accounts shared a screenshot with a headline implying that protesters in France were shooting French police with American rifles intended for Ukraine. This information originated from pro-Kremlin channels on the messaging app Telegram.
"The Kramatorsk Rocket"
The next fake pertains to a Russian rocket attack in late June in the center of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine, resulting in the death of eight people. Immediately after the attack, a Twitter Blue account, presenting itself as a legitimate news source, claimed that the strike was mistakenly carried out by Ukraine and hit military barracks where NATO forces and foreign mercenaries were stationed.
"Zelensky Cancels Elections"
Recently, viral Twitter posts claimed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "canceled" elections in Ukraine. The fake news was propagated by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who criticized US aid to Ukraine, stating in his newly launched Twitter show that President Zelensky's comments proved that he had ended democracy in Ukraine.
The Twitter press office confirmed receiving a journalistic inquiry from BBC but declined to comment.