People-to-people diplomacy represents a Russian version of public diplomacy, different from the western one, which we will try to point out in this text.

An international forum of Slavic Academy of Sciences, Education, Arts and Culture, entitled National Idea: From the Origins of Formation to Development Prospects opened on November 2nd, in Nizhny Novgorod. The forum was attended by representatives of government, public organizations, scientists, pedagogues, and students from nine countries: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Poland, Montenegro, Serbia and Greece.

From the publicly available agenda of the forum we are familiar with who the speakers and panelists were, but other participants were unknown. However, analyzing social networks and using DFC software we found out that Montenegrin representatives were Dragan Rosandic, a columnist of the IN4S portal and TV host of Srpska TV, Vojin Grubac, a columnist of the IN4S portal as well, and Nebojsa Juskovic, president of the Democratic Party of Unity.

In his opening speech Sergei Melnikov, the assistant to the President’s Office for Foreign Policy pointed out that Slavic unity is an enduring value that allows us to emerge victorious from many life situations, and to confront the challenges of our time. In the Western world, there is now a change in the civilizational code, the rejection of traditional values, which is accompanied by active secularization. A liberal project is being implemented, and to resist it, we need to consolidate all our forces. It is precisely under the slogan of the unity of Slovenian culture that this political project is concealed.

Searching the posts on social networks we could follow the development of the forum as well as the places that participants visited during their stay in Russia. Particularly interesting for us was the visit to Komsomolskaya Pravda (Комсомольская правда) in Moscow, the most circulating regime daily papers in Russia as well as the meeting between the Deputy Editor-in-Chief Pavel Petrovic Satkov and Dragan Rosandic.

Opening ceremony of the forum was attended by Assistant to the Presidential Administration for Foreign Policy Sergei Meljnikov, Vice Governor of the Nizhny Novgorod Region, Eugene Liulin, Chief Federal Inspector for the Nizhny Novgorod Region Alexander Murzin, Metropolitan of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas Georgij, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the Novgorod Region, Evgeny Yevgengoev Kavinov and President of the International Slovenian Academy of Science, Education, Arts and Culture, Sergei Baburin.

First Russian-Balkan Summit of Public Diplomacy

The first Russian-Balkan Summit of Public Diplomacy was held in Voronezh on November 12th, organized by the Russian-Balkan Center for Public Diplomacy. The summit addressed issues of cultural, economic, spiritual and scientific cooperation, as well as security issues.

Participants were Leonid Ivashov – president of the Academy for Geopolitical Problems, Zivadin Jovanovic – former Yugoslav Foreign Minister, Goran Petronijevic – lawyer, Jambulat Umarov – Chechen Republic’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, National Policy, Press & Info, Zmago Jelincic – leader of the Slovenian National Party and MP, as well as many other prominent figures.

Vladislav Bojovic – a member of the Democratic People’s Party (DNP) Presidency and Democratic Front party member, and Gojko Raicevic, editor of the IN4S portal and president of the Union for Military Neutrality of Montenegro represented Montenegro. Gojko Raicevic said that the area with the highest concentration of Russophiles is now occupied by NATO. Bojovic said that Russia’s presence in the Balkans is a sign of preserving the traditional values, Orthodox spirituality and cultural identity of the Slovenian peoples, while supporting the preservation of the sovereignty of the Balkan countries.

Visiting Chechnya

Interesantan susret desio se tokom posjete balkanskih novinara Čečeniji. Predsjednik pokreta Besmrtni puk, Igor Damjanović gostovao je na Prvom programu TV Grozni, a potom se sreo sa predsjednikom Ramzanom Kadirovim, čovjekom koji je, po njegovim riječima, Čečeniji donio mir, stabilnost i ekonomski progres. Poznato je da je Čečenija pod Kadirovim postala crna tačka na planeti po pitanju ljudskih prava. Ramzan Kadirov je iskoristio ruski novac da digne Republiku iz ruševina rata, a u zamjenu položio svoju vjernost Vladimiru Putinu.

During his visit to Chechnya, Damjanovic interviewed General Apti Alaudinov, Chief of Police and Deputy Minister of the Interior of the Chechen Republic. An interview praising Alaudin hides the fact that he is a man who, according to many testimonies, has personally participated in numerous tortures of political prisoners in the Russian Caucasus Federal Republic, known for its many human rights abuses

In the fifteen days of their stay, pro-Russian activists from Montenegro participated in various events organized by the Russian Federation. Active measures and propaganda campaigns that Russia is intensively implementing in the Western Balkans, especially in Montenegro, are more than evident. The important question is what is the ultimate goal of these measures?

Social networks enable us to connect with others, find out new things and information, express our opinion, be active. However, recent events have just shown the ugly side of those platforms.

An investigative journalist who has, during his career, reported and investigated topics, such as GRU, FSB, Chechen and Bulgarian mafia, corruption in the US and Russia, could claim nothing can surprise him few days ago. However, a recent case of video clip from Belgrade outshined all the others, at least when it comes to the threats he received, as well as a failure of Twitter to react. Christo Grozev, winner of the European Press Prize 2019 in the Investigative Reporting category for the Skripal case, was in the center of pro-Russian and Russian media, which was followed by threats sent to his inbox on daily basis.

On November 17th, a video was posted on the YouTube social network on the newly created kdjuey channel, in which allegedly a member of the Russian Military Intelligence Service (GRU) bribes a Serbian agent – a high-ranking official. In the days that followed it was a striking topic in the region and beyond. Grozev, a journalist at Bellingcat, soon identified the Russian from the video and launched a major discussion on Twitter, which he regularly updated with new and credible information. His tweets drew a lot of attention from both individuals and the media, who often cited exclusively Bulgarian as a source in their reports. A day later, the Security Information Agency (BIA) and the Serbian authorities confirmed the authenticity of the video, as well as that it was Georgi Kleban in the video. The identity of the Serbian officer is still unknown.

Grozev targeted by the media

Soon after a media campaign started in the Serbian media. Vecernje novosti, Politika and Blic, the most widely read daily newspapers in Serbia, published the story of the GRU agent on the front pages on November 21st, insinuating without any evidence that the West and Western services were behind the release of the video, with the aim of moving Serbia away from Russia. In doing so, they attacked Grozev and linked him to intelligence services, primarily to the British one.

Soon, Russian media joined Serbian portals. Russia Today (RT) claims that Grozev works for the London-based Bellingcat, which was working closely with the British government. In fact, Bellingcat is registered in the Netherlands, which can be easily verified. As for the second claim, Grozev soon denied it. After Russia Today, the Russian news agency TASS got involved in the race, making the false claim that Grozev was actually the person who posted the video on YouTube and thus made him and his family a target for anyone who does not favor the video.

Contradictory statements

Sputnjik Srbija accuses NATO of constructing a spy affair to disrupt Russia-Serbia relations, which are in an upward path. In one of the articles, political scientist Aleksandar Pavic claims that it is an edited video, despite the fact that the Security Information Agency (BIA) and the Serbian president have confirmed its authenticity. However, it does not stop there. He is launching an attack on Bellingcat and its founder Eliot Higgins, for whom he claims doesn’t know what he’s writing about, gaining popularity with fake accusations.

What followed during such a campaign was actually nothing illogical. After numerous false reports by Russian and Serbian media about Grozev, threatening messages on social networks have also arrived. After numerous false reports by Russian and Serbian media about Grozev, threatening messages on social networks were received. Apart from them, the reaction of Twitter, or lack of it, which did not characterize the threats as a violation of the rules of that platform, is seriously worrying.

After Grozev reported the threatening message, he received a reply from Twitter stating there was no violation of the Terms of service of that platform. However, by looking at the Terms of service, it is clear that threats and harassment of others constitute misdemeanors that are to be punished by the deletion of an account, which for some reason was not the case here.

As with Grozev, the question is, do social networks do enough to prevent the spread of fake news, and do they do everything to protect their users?

The European Union called on social networks earlier this year when it said in a statement that they were not doing enough when it comes to disinformation. Facebook, Twitter and Google have been marked out and named as platforms that do not provide officials with enough information in their reports, which worries EU officials.

Case DFC – FB

In previous research on fake accounts, when the DFC team discovered the identity of the person behind the disinformation about the death of a well-known Montenegrin historian, we were faced with a similar situation. All the information gathered was forwarded to Facebook, as a platform on which these and other malpractices have occurred and which is the only one that can respond appropriately. The answer was that the reported accounts do not violate the Community Standards of that network.

Reviewing the Community Standards, DFC team researchers found the following: fake accounts, fake announcement of public figures’ deaths, accusations of pedophilia, sexual predation and violence against women violate many of Facebook’s standards regarding authenticity, security, dignity, spreading fake news, disinformation and inauthentic behavior

Fake posts concerning death of public figures, accusations for pedophilia, sexual predation and violence against women have been spotted on a couple of Facebook profiles. All of this led us to suspect the coordinated activities.

Fake posts concerning death of public figures, accusations of pedophilia, sexual predation and violence against women have been spotted on a couple of Facebook profiles. The first source that we had access to was the account Lana Milosevic. Through the search of profile and history of posts, we came to conclusion that the profile has existed since August 2013, when the spontaneous posts were shared on it and when there was a common, organic interaction with other, real profiles.

However, during the last couple of months, the profile starts accusing the public figures of pedophilia, sexual assaults, and violence against women in its posts. So, Lana Milosevic accuses the editor of the portal IN4S, Gojko Raicevic, for pedophilia as well as the columnist of the same portal, Vojin Grubac. The same profile posted a piece of news that the Minister of Education, Damir Sehovic, passed away on October 11. In numerous comments under the posts, we see that the targeted people or their acquaintances react to these posts themselves.

Besides, the comments and verification of usernames in web addresses of the profile reveal that this profile previously used the name Melanija Beckovic. At one point, the profile was misleading the public by stealing the identity, or, using the photos which belong to a model and fashion blogger, Natalie Suarez, as we found out using Google search. When we reviewed the earlier communication, we found a similar name – Natalie Jovana Suarez, which turned out to be another username of this profile.

Coordinated activities

When we were searching through the shared posts of the Lana Milosevic profile, we found the other fake profiles which did not start publishing the same or similar content only recently. They were doing it during the past years through YouTube videos, links or posts when normal activity on Facebook was noted. We also noticed the coordinated activities when the initiators of the disturbing posts directly posted the same piece of news on the other fake profiles.

The analysis of the timeline of activities of these Facebook profiles and prevalence of the posts with disturbing content do not go back in time. Even though all of them were activated in a period between 2012 and 2015, it is not before the September of this year that they started disturbing the public (with a pause of one, two or up to six years).

Profile Veljko Radusinovic started with his Facebook activities in 2015, but, the content of his posts changed in September of this year. He starts targeting people from Montenegro using the harsh rhetoric, just like Lana Milosevic, but it also directly shared its posts with another fake profile, registered under the name Ana Uskokovic.

News on the pedophilic behavior of the editor of IN4S, Gojko Raicevic, was posted on that profile on September 14, but it was also shared a month after that, on October 11, on the profile of Ana Uskokovic. In the comments below the posts of the profile Veljko Radusinovic, we found the old name of profile Mladen Mitrovic, and Google search reveals to us that the profile picture of that account is fake.

Fake death widespread in media

The other profile with similar activities is Ana Uskokovic and we suspect it to be the source of information on the death of a historian, Aleksandar Stamatovic. On September 29 at 12:30 pm, that profile shared a piece of news on the death of a historian Stamatovic, which turned out to be false. However, the news was spread quickly in all Montenegrin media, which was not the case with other posts, but, a couple of hours later, the portal apologized and the news was deleted.

Just like the previous fake profiles, the profile Ana Uskokovic was deceiving its followers for some time by using the identity of a model and an actress, Ayeza Khan from Pakistan. Additionally, that profile is recognized as a source of the whole harassment campaign during September and October. The first post which was noticed refers to a journalist of The Voice of America, Nebojsa Redzic, on September 05, where he is falsely accused of domestic violence. In comments, the reactions of the people close to Redzic who deny the accusations are noticed. Another suspicious profile, Ivan Ivanovic, appeared in interaction with that fake profile on the same subject and he presents the arguments defending Redzic.

Later on that day, Jovan Markus, Montenegrin politician and former Mayor of Cetinje, posted on his profile the threats that he received from the profile Ana Uskokovic. The search of the shared posts and new profile registered by the name Adriatic Pg (Slaven Radunovic) demonstrate that he did not receive the threats only from the profile Ana Uskokovic.

New findings

In direct conversations with the victims of this campaign, as well as the people who interacted with the fake profiles in the period of normal communication five or six years ago, we gained the first findings on who could stand behind this network.

Talking with one of the victims of anonymous attacks on Facebook, we found another fake profile called Risto Radovic. Our interlocutor told us that the profile was previously named Sergey Volkov. Later, numerous profiles were lining up, called Srecko Kovijanic and Miodrag Ratkovic. There is a possibility that there are more profiles used for the same purposes.

Searching through the public part of the profile, we found out that the profile openly threatened to Dragan Rosandic, journalist of the TV Srpska, on October 11. In the other post on September 24, the profile Risto Radovic was harshly insulting a politician Slavisa Guberinic and used the same rhetoric, which was noticed on the profile Adriatic Pg in case of Dejan Perisic, a singer who was a victim of the post before.

The key question is – what are the authorities doing and what could they do and on which levels, in order to prevent the spreading of the phenomenon which is taking hold every day. At the same time, the main issue for a competent public is the psychological profile of the whistleblowers.

Many self-proclaimed experts, geo-strategists, theologians, and ufologists with questionable authority, often using pseudoscience, offer audiences alternative versions of reality.

Michael Butter, a professor of American Literature and Cultural History at the University of Tübingen, spoke in the middle of this year in an interview for Deutsche Welle in which way conspiracy theories point to real problems. He said that conspiracy theories have always existed, but that they were largely discredited by the development of psychology and contemporary social sciences at the end of the 19th century, explaining how such social systems develop their own internal logic.

Yet, despite this explanation, conspiracy theories are still very prevalent in societies. They are very important for the identity of those who believe in them because they explain how the world functions. According to Professor Butter, conspiracy theories have a strong conservative touch in terms of preserving the existing order or restoring it to an earlier order that no longer exists. Or it never existed, and experts, who appear in the context of historical revisionism, revive it with various studies, researches, or forgotten documents.

In that sense, we can mention Goran Saric, a Croatian theologian, and historian regionally known for lecturing on a slightly different Balkan history, which has been banned or hidden from the general public. In addition to frequent appearances in numerous TV shows (Novosadrska TV, TV Studio B, TV Happy, Center, Balkan INFO), Saric holds lectures and forums in the region. He has twice been a guest at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in Belgrade on the topic of Serbs in the Secret Archives of the Vatican (2017 and 2018). He has also recently visited Montenegro, where he gave a lecture on Forbidden History of the Balkans at the KIC Budo Tomovic in Podgorica on October 7 and answered historical questions related to our country.

Political consequences

The author of the book Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture, Mark Fenster, points out that conspiracy theories play an important communicative role since they help unite the masses as the people against the others, presented as a secret power bloc. Additionally, author and professor at St. Peter’s University in New Jersey, Barna Donovan, said in a show One-on-One with Steve Adubato that part of the population did not believe the evidence provided.

Daniel Jolley and Karen M. Douglas, professors of Social Psychology at the University of Kent in England, studied how such theories can have not so harmless consequences for a society in the research The social consequences of conspiracism[1] (2013). In their research, they found out that people exposed to conspiracy theories about climate change or the electoral system, for example, were less willing to reduce their carbon footprint or vote in elections. The study revealed that conspiracy theories thus reduce social inclusion since they make people feel helpless.

A study conducted in May 2019 by a group of students from the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade on the inclination of adult Serbian citizens to believe in conspiracy theories and the role of the media in their creation showed that 0.6 (on a scale of 0 to 1) believe in conspiracy theories. The results also revealed that conspiracy theories are more widely believed by readers of tabloid newspapers than by readers of newspapers that are not classified as such. The same ratio of results is observed in TV programs.

Popularity in mainstream media

Proponents of conspiracy theories often appear in the mainstream Serbian media outlets, which are equally popular in Montenegro and other countries in the region. With such credibility, conspiracy theorists can more easily connect with like-minded people and create communities and discussion forums.

At the end of 2018, Dejan Lucic and Predrag Petkovic were guests at the morning show on TV Prva, where they were invited to speak about a new prediction of the end of the world. On that occasion, Lucic said that there will be an attempt of assassination of President Trump and Petkovic said that Earth was flat. Lucic is already known to the public as someone who has been talking about the conspiracies of world powers and intelligence services for years and is announcing World War III. His comments regarding Metropolitan Amfilohije are well-known, as well as the statement that if Montenegro seizes all ecclesiastical property from the Serbian Orthodox Church, the destruction of Orthodoxy in that country will begin.

Conspiracy theory of flat Earth on a map

The Balkan INFO production, especially its show Interview, is a place where conspiracy theorists often appear. Founded in June 2015 in Belgrade, this independent media production has almost 230,000 subscribers on its YouTube channel. According to information from that channel, the second most viewed video, with 1.3 million views, is the 2016 Interview with Miroljub Petrovic, entitled The European Union Promotes Satanism and the Destruction of Man.

Miroljub Petrovic has become regionally popular for his unconventional positions that children should not attend school, women should be silenced, and drug addicts punished with the death penalty – under the sword boy – that provoked laughter. However, Petrovic’s narrative and work only attracted more severe attention this year when an investigation of the death of 30-year-old Slavco Petrov, whom he allegedly treated for a brain tumor with his natural medicine methods, started.

In an interview with Darko Brkan, President of the Civic Association Zašto ne (Why Not) and owner of the Raskrinkavanje.ba portal, we got an idea of how conspiracy theories are being spread in Bosnia and Herzegovina. For 18 years, journalist Mladen Maric has been editing and running the foreign policy TV show Paralele on Federalna TV (a public broadcasting service in Bosnia and Herzegovina), and providing public with content that has disinformation character, and most of that content has characteristics of conspiracy theories.

In one of the analyzes, the Raskrinkavanje.ba portal dealt with only one episode of the TV show and noticed an interesting phenomenon. The day they posted the analysis, they noticed a negative ratio of followers on Facebook, as well as a number of negative comments. This showed them how popular conspiracy theories and similar media are in the Western Balkans, and how much people actually trust unverified data.

YouTube – a home to conspiracy theories

In February this year, Professor Ashley Landrum from the University of Texas explained for the Guardian about a study where scientists questioned a hypothesis whether a YouTube video was the main channel for spreading conspiracy theories that Earth was flat. The study was conducted on 30 respondents and 29 of them said they began to believe that Earth was flat only recently after watching videos of it on YouTube.

In the Western Balkans, YouTube has gained enviable popularity among younger generations, where gamers, YouTubers and vloggers are most followed. All of them, of course, make such videos mostly because of their earnings, sometimes reaching several thousand euros a month.

The second most viewed video channel IDIOKRATIJA with almost a million views.

The IDIOKRATIJA channel, which records about 280,000 subscribers on YouTube, regularly publishes content on legends, peculiar events, secret societies, aliens, pyramids, etc. Although the channel is not arranged by a classic conspiracy theorist, but a young man who wants to make money from the topic’s popularity rather than advocate its ideas, the question arises to what extent that content has an impact on the younger generations who follow him.

A recent DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions and IPSOS Strategic Marketing survey about the Like Generation, conducted on generations born between 2000 and 2013, found out that Baka Prase was one of the famous contemporaries that young people admire.

This is supported by another study conducted in the middle of the year by Harris Polls and Lego in the US, UK, and China, which showed that one-third of children surveyed between the ages of 8 and 12 want to become either a vlogger or a YouTuber when they grow up.

[1] Full heading of the analysis: The social consequences of conspiracism: Exposure to conspiracy theories decreases intentions to engage in politics and to reduce one’s carbon footprint (2013)

Recently, the attention of the world and the domestic public has been captured by the 5G network and its capabilities.

Does the next generation network of higher capacity and reach represent a major advancement in technology or …

The expert public agrees that this is a project aimed at faster data transfer technology with larger number of connected users and devices. However, as disinformation has become ubiquitous in all areas, it is not surprising that the issue of 5G has also caught the eye of conspiracy theorists and manipulators.

The fifth generation of the network, known as 5G, will, apart from mobile phones, expand its influence to other devices such as security cameras, drones, autonomous cars, home appliances, and the robotics industry.

What is the 5G network?

5G is the next generation of mobile internet, which aims to download and transfer data much faster, but also to expand coverage and provide a more stable connection. 5G technology also allows downloading files whose size is no longer a problem for users. The 3G network transfers data in 24 hours, while the 5G network will be able to perform the same operation in just 3.6 seconds. When asked whether these actions will cause changes in our organisms, experts answer negatively.

In technology, just like in other spheres, every innovation raises many questions and provokes different reactions from people. The advent of a new mobile device, app, operating system and the like, triggers an avalanche of comments and divided opinions. Such a development does not bypass the 5G technology either.

When implementing new, advanced technologies, concerns about potential adverse consequences are always present. From the moment it was announced, the 5G network has been characterized as suspicious and dangerous to human health, which is why 5G technology practically became the conspiracy theory.

The number of 5G opponents grows

Currently, there is a growing number in the world of those who oppose the 5G network, not wanting it to become functional. They cite high risks to human and animal health as reasons for their indignation. With the help of media, social networks and propaganda, they are increasingly trying to influence those who do not share their opinions.

On the other hand, professionals and technology geeks miss no opportunity to showcase the benefits and capabilities of the 5G network. Many scientists, technology professionals, doctors, conspiracy theorists, as well as technology lovers discuss the debate on 5G technology around the world. The trend has not bypassed the Western Balkans. There are numerous texts, videos and comments on the pros and cons of the 5G network.

What do the Montenegrin media say?

The media outlets in Montenegro do not belong to a media group that makes negative comments about the 5G network. Montenegrin media, as well as mobile operators, inform the public what a 5G network is, what are its main features and capabilities and when it can be expected on the Montenegrin market. Mobile operators are suggesting that Montenegro is trying to keep up with the current technological trends in the world, so it is also the case with the 5G network.

Montenegrin portals antenam.net, investor.me, standard.com.me, cdm.me, mina.news, mondo.me have written that the 5G network delivers higher Internet bandwidth, and will positively affect many areas, such as traffic or health services. Mobile operators’ companies have announced that as early as 2020, Montenegrin users may be able to test the 5G network and all the benefits of a new generation of mobile communications.

The detrimental effect of electromagnetic waves?

However, not everyone believes that the new standard for mobile telecommunications services is useful, but they believe that 5G technology can cause serious consequences for the environment, humans, and animals. Opponents of the fifth mobile network generation think that a detrimental effect is caused by electromagnetic waves emitted by devices that use the most advanced technology.

Dejan Lucic, a publicist, geopolitician and conspiracy theorist, was a guest at the show Jutro on TV Prva and presented the network’s noxiousness of the scientists who could not appear on television for fear, he said. In that conversation, he pointed out that scientists have discovered that a 5G network is like a microwave and these microwaves influence on DNA and on changes in humans that are unknown. On the other hand, in the same show, IT expert Vojislav Rodic emphasized the fact that the 5G network is not being introduced because of people and human communication but because of devices (Internet of things) that are already or will be connected to the Internet. He also highlighted the time savings the 5G network provides and the fact that a large number of devices can be connected to the Internet using this network. Dejan Lucic, a publicist, geopolitician and conspiracy theorist, was a guest at the show Jutro on TV Prva and presented the network’s noxiousness of the scientists who could not appear on television for fear, he said. In that conversation, he pointed out that scientists have discovered that a 5G network is like a microwave and these microwaves influence on DNA and on changes in humans that are unknown. On the other hand, in the same show, IT expert Vojislav Rodic emphasized the fact that the 5G network is not being introduced because of people and human communication but because of devices (Internet of things) that are already or will be connected to the Internet. He also highlighted the time savings the 5G network provides and the fact that a large number of devices can be connected to the Internet using this network.

Numerous confrontations

The Facebook page Pravo na izbor, already known for advocating for the anti-vaccine campaign, shared a clip of the Jutarnji program on RTS television, where the topic of How dangerous is the 5G network? was introduced. Guests were a professor at the Faculty of Computer Science, Petar Kocovic, and epidemiologist Zoran Radovanovic. An IT professor points out that this technology will not only be used for mobile phones, but for a series of devices called the Internet of Things, and the current estimate is that there are between 50 and 100 billion of these devices.

To the statement that 5G is a death network, epidemiologist Zoran Radovanovic replies that this is an exaggeration and that not all radiation is the same. Radovanovic points out that it is necessary to monitor the effects of 5G or any other new technology, and only afterward to identify the advantages and disadvantages. Dr. Zoran Radovanovic was previously targeted by anti-vaccine activists, which we have already written about.

What will happen in the foreseeable future, whether a scientific study will emerge that will stop the spread of the 5G network or we will download the two-hour-long movie in just 3.6 seconds with the help of 5G technology, remains to be seen.

The significance of anti-Fascist sentiment in Montenegro and Montenegro’s contribution to the People’s Liberation War, in terms of overall victory over fascism, is immeasurable.

Montenegro celebrates the Statehood day to commemorate the day of July 13, 1878, when it was recognized as an independent country at the Berlin Congress, and of July 13, 1941, when the Montenegrin people called for uprising as a revolt against fascism.

In September this year, Poland celebrated the 80th anniversary of the greatest breakout of war, per reach and casualties, in the history of humanity. The Russian representatives were not present among more than 200 officials from 40 countries invited to participate in the commemoration. This provoked swift reactions of the Kremlin.

On the other hand, the Montenegrin President attended the ceremony, and he was the only one who pointed out that the whole event would be complete if Russia had been a part of it, given the role and the casualties the Soviet Union had and suffered.

Warsaw justified its decision by the actions of the Russian Federation, starting from its occupation of the Ukrainian territories, the elections meddling across the world, to impairing sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries, and by Skripal case.

The Russian state media did not take long to direct, via TV shows such as the one of Dmitry Kiselev, its aimed and severe disinformation campaign against Poland. Our colleagues from DFRLab identified a series of anti-Polish narratives spread by Kremlin-owned media, anti-West politicians, and representatives of the Russian diplomatic missions abroad.

Following the model of the mentioned research, we decided to address the media outlets and players in the region dealing with the topic and to discover whether there were similarities in our media space.

Keywords Poland and war appeared in the online space of the region, in the period from August 25 to September 9 this year.

Was Poland a threat to the USSR?

As early as 2008, Vladimir Putin stated that the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact was unacceptable from the moral pint of view, and useless and dangerous from the practical one. However, not only does the authority of the Russian Federation still deny the Soviet Union’s role in partitioning Poland and dividing Europe into the Nazi and Soviet sphere of influence but, according to the claims, also justifies the Pact.

As Sputnik Serbia wrote, and based on the alleged secret documents justifying certain decisions of the then military and political situation, notably the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact, the most possible threat to the USSR at the time was not only the military alliance of Germany and Italy, but Poland, which was in orbit of the fascist block.

On the other hand, Belgrade’s Vecernje novosti stated that the document, Russians have access to, showed clearly that the backbone of the Polish doctrine and politics in 1938 was to dissolve Russia.

As proof of the Polish aggression, the IN4S portal recalled the Polish occupation of the Cieszyn Silesia in Czechoslovakia.

Russian and pro-Russian officials accusing the West of the beginning of the war

Precisely, the representatives of the diplomatic mission of the Russian Federation in Great Britain highlighted in September that before the breakout of World War II, the British politics approved the aggressive Nazi policy and consistently sabotaged the USSR’s ideas to create an effective anti-Hitler alliance, particularly to protect Poland.

Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, a Russian Ambassador to Belgrade, said that it is impossible to delete the Western countries’ leniency with the reconstruction of the military power of Reich, their neutral stance on pro-fascism in Spain and their reservations about the Nazi Anschluss – the so-called policy of appeasement, which in turn was a policy of cynical agreement with Nazi Germany to direct its aggressive ambitions towards the East. 

However, during the Great Purge from 1936 to 1939, which comprised of political repression in the Soviet Union, around 110,000 Poles were murdered. The very event, as well as the Ribbentrop – Molotov Pact, made the Western allies see Soviets as non-credible partners.

Historical revisionism backed by NATO 

Maria Zakharova, rejected the Polish explanation for not-inviting Russia and claimed that the decision was directed by NATO. 

Keywords Poland and revision appeared in the online space of the region, in the period from August 25 to September 9 this year. Within this period, as many as 79 media articles were supporting the revisionist stance.

The Serbian Web-tribune portal explained this lack of invitation as a mental disorder. The story was joint by Dveri, the far-right political party. It is linked to Unite Continental, the Serbian-French brigade that participated in the war in Ukraine on the Russian side. The party stated that it is unimaginable for anyone to dare to underestimate the Serbian causalities in World War II and the undoubted contribution of Serbia to crush fascism. The chance that Russia was not invited as well, clearly indicates that NATO continues with its unscrupulous pressures, showing no respect for human right and causalities.

These and similar narratives represent a tendency to characterize Poland as a bad guy. The present authority of the Russian Federation negates the role of the Soviet Union in partitioning Poland and dividing Europe into Nazi and Soviet sphere of influence. Moreover, Kremlin characterizes Poland as an aggressor and a threat. While neglecting the fact that in 1939 Poland was under a joint attack of Germany and the Soviet Union: Germany on August 23 and the Soviet Union seventeen days later. Under the double aggression, the Polish resistance was quickly crushed. Soon after, the Soviet army made one of the greatest crimes against Poland. In Katyn Forest, it murdered 22 thousand Polish officers.

The news on the presence of Russian special forces on the territory of Norway (its mainland and archipelago of Svalbard) was published on September 27, on the Norwegian portal AldriMer.

Citing independent and intelligence sources (gained by American reconnaissance aircrafts U-25 and RC-135V), the portal stated that the goal of the Russian intrusion was to collect the data on key infrastructure and location. The same day, the Embassy of the Russian Federation to Norway published a demanti, assessing the news as provocative.

Screenshot of the demanti of the Russian Embassy

Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, denied the claims of the Norwegian portal several days later, stating that this actually derived from an anti-Russian sentiment and anti-Russian lobby in Norway, with a view to presenting Russia as an enemy. The Government in Oslo and the Governor of Svalbard made no comment, although according to the source of the portal AldriMer, they had the knowledge of the presence of the Russian special forces on their territory.

What do social media say?

Research of the Russian Novaya Gazeta (Новая газета) from October 1, shows a slightly different situation. Through the searches on Instagram, the portal acquired the evidence showing that Kadyrov’s Flying Squad has been periodically present on the Norwegian territory since 2016.

Likewise, on March 2, 2018, profile account @bes__600 posted a photo of 10 persons in military uniforms standing in front of the airport in Grozny. The comments below the photo revealed that one part of the group was in Norway for business.

A month earlier, in February of the same year, profile account @akhaev_07_95 posted a photo of another member of the Flying Squad. In the background of the photo was captured a fuel tanker with an inscription Svalbard lufthavn, meaning Svalbard Airport.

On January 20, 2019, the same user posted a photo of a rifle with a location – Longyearbyen, a town on archipelago of Svalbard.

According to the Svalbard Treaty, signed in 1920, the archipelago is not only a demilitarized zone but completely under the jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Norway.

Until October 3, this year, both accounts were active and public. First followed the deletion of photos that appeared in the media, and then, account @akhaev_07_95 was removed entirely, while account @bes__600 is now private.

Earlier insight into their accounts showed photos of the two users together, as well as their activities within the Russian Special Forces University (Российский Университет Спецназа). The University situated in Chechnya (under the personal supervision of Kadyrov) trains the National Guard of Russia, among other things.

A chance or a match?

A similar situation took place in 2014 when Russia tried to hide in all possible ways its involvement and support to the pro-Russian separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine. Despite the claims of Putin and other officials that the Russian military never stepped foot on the Ukrainian soil, the soldiers’ activities on social media ( the most famous case involved Alexander Sotkin) proved the contrary. That is why, the State Duma adopted a decision forbidding the military to use mobile phones while on duty, or during missions.

Which source to trust? It seems that the conclusion imposes itself.

Three journalists from the Siberian city of Tomsk spontaneously started the story of the Immortal Regiment. Sergei Lapenkov, Sergei Kolotovkin, and Igor Dimitriev used the tradition of holding portraits of veterans, which was sporadically happening across Russia during the Victory Day celebrated in Russia on May 9.

The three of them noticed that there were fewer living veterans of the Red Army from the Second World War, and they gave a new form to the mentioned tradition by inviting the participants of the 2012 parade to bring portraits of the loved ones who participated in the war with them.

It did not take long for the official Kremlin to recognize the propaganda potential of the movement, and very soon, they began to interfere with recruiting volunteers and organizing the events themselves. Despite the founders’ protests and demands to exclude the party activists and officials from the whole story, the state responded by organizing a special movement called the Immortal Regiment of Russia. Several years later, the movement managed to expand to nearly 80 countries. Thus, one essentially positive initiative turned into another asset of Putin – people’s diplomacy, intended to be exported beyond borders of Russia, along with the Night Wolves, RT, and Sputnik.

Reaction to the Immortal Regiment – the Immortal Barracks

Reactions of the liberal public in Russia were strong and resulted in the initiative called the Immortal Barracks, which told stories about the fate of the victims of repression in the Soviet Union. Other similar actions spoke about grave condition and deceived living veterans of the recent wars, from Afghanistan to Syria, in which Russia and the USSR took part. Geographical expansion of the Immortal Regiment has reached Belarus and Ukraine, and after it failed in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – holding photographs of deceased is not in the conformity with the local Islamic tradition – it arrived in Montenegro through activism of journalist Igor Damjanovic.

Igor Damjanovic started his career as a journalist and columnist for the IN4S portal, a media outlet known for creating fake news, which is located in the premises of Matica Srpska in Podgorica.  Later on, he edited the local branch of the Russia Beyond project, owned by the Russian state news agency Rossiya Segodnya, published within the daily newspaper Dan. He often visits Russia and his social media accounts show that he was a grantee of the Russian government, a frequent guest at international forums organized by the Kremlin, as well as a guest of the Caucasian republics of the Russian Federation, where he met the leaders of Ingushetia and Dagestan.

Project the Immortal Regiment of Montenegro was launched during the campaign for Montenegro’s 2016 parliamentary elections when a delegation from Montenegro went to Russia to participate in the parade. The Immortal Regiment of Montenegro organized a walk from Praskvica Monastery to the memorials to the fallen soldiers of the National Liberation War at Celobrdo in Budva, aw well as in Herceg Novi – both municipalities where the Montenegrin opposition won the 2016 elections. These gatherings rounded up activists from different political parties, including the pro-Western URA party.

Harmful ideology

What should concern us, however, is not the walk itself, but the ideology of this movement, which can be read in posts of Igor Damjanovic or on the official page of the Immortal Regiment of Montenegro on social networks. This includes anti-Semitism, homophobia, Islamophobia, hate speech and fake news, a mockery of NATO and the EU, as well as propaganda synchronized with the official Moscow’s activities.

They frequently mock the Russian opposition, the protests in Moscow and criticize any co-operation between Montenegro and Serbia and their Western partners. Posts glorifying the image and the work of Slobodan Milosevic, Bashar al-Assad and Stalin were published both on Damjanovic’s personal account and on the account of the movement. Criticizing Israel’s state policy and characterizing the Jewish as hypocrites, as well as glorifying Hezbollah-like movements and the regimes in Syria and Iran, show that the movement’s mission has long exceeded its stated purposes.

Misusing memory of the Second World War

There is a number of misuses of memory of the Second World War heroes, and for this reason, we will mention only some. In a post of September 9 on his Facebook account, Damjanovic wrote about the visit of the Serbian Prime Minister and her partner to the Prime Minister of Luxembourg and his partner. As both couples are homosexual/lesbian, he insults them in the most inappropriate way.

A post of September 3, on Facebook page the Immortal Regiment of Montenegro, intends to intensify the efforts of the Russian Foreign Ministry to revise the nature of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the occupation of Poland in 1939.  Crimes, such as the one in the Katyn Forest are attributed to Poland, which has become a victim of its egoistic politics. On the same day, as many times before it, the same page mocks Sead Sehovic, Montenegrin basketball player, for participating in the campaign supporting Montenegro’s NATO membership.

A post of August 22, resulted out of the visit of the Jewish religious leaders of Ukraine to the concentration camp site in Samobor, calls the entire Jewish political and religious elite hypocrites. This is in line with Damjanovic’s views, which he often posts on his personal account, of calling Israel the criminal regime and referring to Jews in America as the biggest enemies of Serbian and the Serbhood. All this can be read in a post of July 6, in which Damjanovic from his personal account criticizes the co-operation between Serbia and Israel, highlighting the photos of Hezbollah fighters from the battlefields in Syria.

Unambiguously, all these examples point out to the purpose of the Immortal Regiment in Montenegro, but in other countries as well, and show how the anti-fascist struggle and its sentiment have been manipulated.

Over 2000 arrested and five suicides linked to the protests are the result of a tense situation that has caused Chinese authorities to send security forces to the border with the Autonomous Region, directly creating a large-scale international crisis. After the support to the protesters was send from Taiwan and other international addresses, the situation became even more complicated.

Up until 1997, Hong Kong was a British colony and as such, it avoided the establishment of a one-party system and enjoyed the free society status. Britain has accepted to withdraw under the treaty, agreeing with China that the city and the region would continue to enjoy a special status. Thus, the maxim one country, two systems was created.

Although there are no direct elections to the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive Officer, Hong Kong has maintained a liberal attitude towards civic activism and independent media, inherited from the British rule. All these are reasons why the Extradition Bill[1], was put in the process. If adopted, the Bill will enable local authorities to detain and extradite people who are requested on the territories Hong Kong do have signed extradition agreements with, including Mainland China. Although the cause was not related to China, civil society in Hong Kong saw it as a threat to their heritage ​​and freedom, for the fear of the establishment of the PR of China’s judicial jurisdiction over the Hong Kong territory.

In spring, spontaneous gatherings of citizens began, escalating after the use of police force, and resulting in the very quick expansion of the list of requests. Beside the initial request, the request to withdraw the draft Bill from the procedure, the list now included the following: to withdraw the characterization of the protests as riots (as authorities call it), to release the arrested, to establish an independent commission to investigate police brutality, the resignation of the Chief executive and to call for the elections with universal suffrage.

Since the very beginning of the protests, the fight has been waged on social networks as well, which are used by the protest organizers to disseminate information and coordinate activities, but also by the Chinese authorities to spread propaganda.

After following activities of suspicious IP addresses from the territory of Mainland China, Twitter conducted an investigation and uncovered a large volume of coordinated activities aimed at amplifying the reach of propaganda content. Since Twitter is blocked in China, the VPN approach was used to circumvent the blockades. However, what raised further doubt about the Chinese government’s involvement was the use of rare unblocked IP addresses, for which there is no censorship of internet access.

The posts characterized the protest organizers as foreign mercenaries, the content on the participants’ violence was spread, while the protesters were compared to cockroaches and ISIS[2]. After the results of the investigation, 936 Twitter accounts were deleted on August 19, while 200,000 users sharing this content were suspended for not complying with the platform’s User Agreement, the document available on Twitter’s official website.

Activities that are not tolerated are spamming, or repetitive sending of advertising content without the consent of the recipient, further coordinated activities, fake profiles, and profiles associated with the known rule-breakers, as well as with those who evade the ban on use by employing various methods. This is not the first time Twitter has responded like this; during protests in Iran, 4,800 users were deleted due to suspicions on human rights jeopardizing and the use of the platform as a cover-up tool.

Both platforms have committed to the constant monitoring of abuses on their networks, to guarantee complete independence and impartiality of information. To this end, paid advertising on the networks is also being controlled, which is prohibited for state-owned and state-controlled media.

Photo, source: hongkongfp – the scene in Hong Kong at the Pacific Place where protestor Marco Leung fell to his death from atop construction scaffolding, after protesting against the Extradition Bill

[1] The Extradition Bill is a direct consequence of the death of girl Poon Hiu-wing from Hong Kong murdered by her boyfriend while visiting Taiwan late last year

[2] A propaganda technique used to intimidate ethnic Uyghurs, mostly Muslim communities in the west of the country, in the unstable Autonomous Province of Xinjiang

In the middle of August, attention of the international and local media was drawn to the clip from Late Night Show with David Letterman from 2008, in which the actor, Bill Hader, morphs into his colleagues Tom Cruise and Seth Rogen at certain moments during the interview.

That this is not just any kind of clip, confirms the very title of the video: Bill Hader channels Tom Cruise [deepfake]. We wrote about deepfake technology and its dangers in the previous issues of the Magazine, but now,  it is a somewhat different case.

Actually, the creator of this video, who runs the YouTube channel Ctrl Shift Face and who hides behind the name Tom, told The Guardian that he uses the videos to awaken the critical awareness of the public in the era of misleading content spreading. As he said, before, people knew that such doings are possible with photos in programs such as Photoshop, but they had no idea that the same can be done with videos.

Slovak by origin, Tom works as a 3D artist in the movies and video games industry in the Czech Republic, and in the last three months, he created around 20 similar videos. He also points out that he is self-taught, so to make a video like this, he only needs a good computer.

Although he thinks that deepfake includes a risk of technology abuse in a time when disinformation is being increasingly widespread, the mere fact that the creation of such video requires higher-level IT skills and a time frame of several days keeps him calm.

On the other hand, it is easier to determine the authenticity of deepfake than fake news, and this is what truly frightens him. With a bit of journalistic talent and statements that they come from credible sources, such news spread on social media like wildfire.

According to him, the aim of creating such videos is to point out to the public the extent to which spreading of disinformation and fake news gained momentum, with a clear warning on his YouTube channel, reading: do not believe everything you see on the internet.