While Russia continues its war against Ukraine, far-right influencer Jack Posobiec has boosted narratives promoted by pro-Russian aggregation accounts on both his Telegram and Twitter accounts. As right-wing commentators have eagerly looked for partisan excuses to explain Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Posbiec has turned to pro-Russian “military news” Telegram accounts for talking points about the conflict.
Posobiec explicitly stated that his public statements are influenced by the content on Telegram. The far-right pundit said that “if you aren’t on Telegram you are way behind on all Ukraine-Russia news,” and he complained that “neocon TV guests” are ignorant of the events in Ukraine because ”they don't even know what Telegram is.” Posobiec has further elaborated that there is a “Telegram / Twitter gap” and that “Telegram is at least a week ahead of MSM Twitter on the Ukraine war,” while stating that he incorporates information obtained from these Telegram channels and “anon Twitter” posts alongside more traditional reporting into his podcast shows.
Posobiec previously served as a prominent amplifier of the Macron Leaks (a hack attributed by some to the Russian intelligence agencies) as well as the Russian intelligence-backed fake news site SouthFront, and more recently he helped push the Ukrainian bioweapons labs conspiracy theory. Now, he has contributed to cross-platform spread of narratives originating from pro-Russian Telegram accounts.
Telegram has been a key vector in the Russian social media dis- and misinformation campaigns during the war. While the platform has long enjoyed popular (and aboveboard) use by Ukrainians and Russians, its adoption by the American far-right since the aftermath of January 6 has made the platform a unique staging ground for pro-Russian misinformation to metastasize and jump platforms.
From March 3 to April 1, Posobiec used his Telegram channel to uncritically and without context amplify at least 28 pieces of content (many posted in Russian) from the following Telegram channels, which have been characterized by Social Media Analysis Toolkit and other disinformation researchers as pushing a pro-Russian line:
- 14 posts from the English-language geopolitics news aggregator Intel Slava Z (also known as Intel Slava).
- 5 posts from the Russian-language war footage aggregator Лик Войны.
- 4 posts from the English-language military news aggregator ASB Military News.
- 1 post from the Russian-language pro-Kremlin tabloid Комсомольская правда (also known as Komsomolskaya Pravda).
- 1 post from the Russian-language naval news aggregator Zаписки мичмана Птичкина.
- 1 post from the official account of Russia’s Embassy in Belarus.
- 1 post from the Russian-language, pro-Russian separatist news account Inside 🅉 Donetsk (also known as Inside Donetsk).
- 1 post from the Russian-language military news aggregator Милитарист.
Twitter is Posobiec’s primary social media platform, where he has 1.7 million followers, however the influencer has directed users to his smaller Telegram account of over 182,000 followers as a place for less-censored content.
Though he often shares the same information on Twitter under the pretense of obtaining it from more neutral sources, some of Posobiec’s Telegram post time stamps suggest that he was influenced to post the content after reading it from pro-Russian sources first. Posobiec amplified at least 4 pro-Russian posts on his Telegram channel that correlate with similar tweets he made within a few minutes or hours, seemingly laundering Kremlin talking points from Telegram to his Twitter followers:
- March 4: Posobiec forwarded a post from a pro-Russian Telegram channel which claimed that the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant then under Russian attack was “reliably protected” from tank shells and that “Ukrainian propaganda” was lying about the possibility of fallout. A little over 10 minutes later, Posobiec tweeted that “they lied about Zaporizhzhya because they want to pull the US into the war.” Later the same day, Posobiec accused a Twitter user of not being “smart enough to follow realtime reporting,” stating that the “nuclear plant wasn’t in danger of meltdown."
- March 15: Posobiec forwarded a Telegram video post from a pro-Russian Telegram account with the caption: “Civilians near Kherson hand over their accumulated weapons to the armed forces of the Russian Federation.” Two hours later, Posobiec quote-tweeted the same video, now posted by the Balkan conflict research account @tinso_ww, with a caption that seems to reference the Second Amendment.
- March 15: Posobiec forwarded a pro-Russian Telegram video post with a caption claiming that “American and British mercenaries are running away from the front lines in Ukraine.” Seventeen minutes later, Posobiec quote-tweeted the same video from a non-Russian account and wrote that it aligned with an Economist article about “Western volunteers fleeing Ukraine.”
- March 26: On Telegram, Posobiec forwarded a pro-Russian post stating that reporting from CNN’s Don Lemon at a Lviv oil depot “was ‘calibrated’ today.” A minute later, Posobiec reposted the video on Twitter under a caption simply stating “Don Lemon from Lviv.”
- April 1: Posobiec forwarded a pro-Russian Telegram channel post citing the National Post and saying that the Ukrainian Foreign Legion was pausing in volunteer recruitment due to lack of military experience and firearms availability. Within 10 minutes, Posobiec had tweeted two posts about the same article on his Twitter account, citing only the National Post.
Posobiec promoted the following pro-Russian narratives exclusively on his Telegram channel:
- Posobiec posted a Russian-language military map showing fighting on the breakaway Transnistria border region between Moldova and Ukraine, even though no conflict has yet taken place there.
- Posobiec posted an article from the Canadian disinformation website Global Research arguing that the Ukrainian Azov Battalion had bombed a Mariupol theater housing civilians, despite most reputable reporting saying that the attack was committed by Russian forces.
- Posobiec posted a controversial and highly disputed article frequently utilized by Russian propagandists to argue that the sniper shootings of Maidan protesters in 2014 was a “false flag operation” committed by far-right opposition groups rather than security forces under former pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
- Posobiec forwarded various posts characterizing foreign volunteers in Ukraine as “foreign mercenaries.”
- Posobiec forwarded a Russian-language post claiming Ukrainian troops were staging fake acts of “heroism” for propaganda footage by firing at abandoned Russian equipment.
According to TGstat.com, Posobiec’s reposts of pro-Russian content represent an escalation of the influencer’s use of his Telegram account to forward non-Twitter posts. Posobiec’s Telegram posts regularly achieve between 30,000 and 45,000 views, which indicates that his promotion of pro-Russian military posts extended the reach of those channels to new audiences.