A research paper by Watanabe on Sputnik News, Conspiracist propaganda: How Russia promotes anti-establishment sentiment online?, will be presented in the Political Communication in a Post-Truth Era panel at ECPR General Conference in Hamburg.
It is widely recognized that the Russian government has been involved in international propaganda to influence foreign publics as part of its “active measures” against the West, but experts still disagree on the nature of its propaganda messages. To understand how Russia is attempting to achieve that goal, I have collected and analyzed Sputnik News articles and Twitter posts linked to them over the course of a year in terms of conspiracy framing of social and political events. The result of quantitative text analysis shows that the Russian website uses conspiracy frames in stories about the United States and Britain, both strategically and tactically, to promote skepticism towards western public institutions beyond the conspiracist community. I argue that its conspiracist propaganda is effective in generating anti-establishment narratives on the internet, potentially giving rise to the advancement of populist parties in the West.