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Bret Schafer is a senior fellow and head of the information manipulation team for the Alliance for Securing Democracy. Bret is the creator and manager of Hamilton 2.0, an online open-source dashboard tracking the outputs of Russian, Chinese, and Iranian state media outlets, diplomats, and government officials. As an expert in computational propaganda, state-backed information operations, and tech regulation, he has spoken at conferences around the globe and advised numerous governments and international organizations. His research has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, and he has been interviewed on NPR, MSNBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, and the BBC. Prior to joining GMF, he spent more than ten years in the television and film industry, including stints at Cartoon Network and as a freelance writer for Warner Brothers. He also worked in Budapest as a radio host and in Berlin as a semi-professional baseball player in Germany’s Bundesliga. He has a BS in communications with a major in radio/television/film from Northwestern University, and a master’s in public diplomacy from the University of Southern California, where he was the editor-in-chief of Public Diplomacy Magazine.

Media Mentions

They [Russia] lost the information war in the West in the first week and haven’t got it back. Really good communications and disinformation cannot overcome really bad policies.
Russia's ability to promote its disinformation has gone unchecked in many parts of the world. Its audience [in Europe] may have dwindled since the war began. But that does not mean it's not finding an audience elsewhere.
Russia and China have long shared distrust and animosity toward the West. On Ukraine, it’s a level above that — just the extent to which they have parroted some pretty specific and in some cases pretty far-fetched claims from Russia.
As long as Russian state media continues to be either banned, downranked or impacted in some way, they're going to want to fill that messaging gap. The best way to do that, to control the narrative, is through their diplomatic accounts.
With governments and tech platforms moving to censor or limit the spread of Russian propaganda, pro-Kremlin talking points are now being laundered through influencers and proxies, including Chinese officials and state media outlets that obviously do not face the same restrictions that have been placed on Russian state media outlets. This has allowed the Kremlin to effectively skirt bans meant to limit the spread of Russian propaganda.
It’s a pretty massive messaging apparatus that Russia controls — whether it’s official embassy accounts, bot or toll accounts or anti-Western influencers — they have many ways to circumvent platform bans.
We often see a two-way flow of conspiratorial narratives moving from the rightwing American information ecosystem to the Kremlin and back again, in a way that creates a feedback loop that reinforces and bolsters messaging from both groups.
The question is how much the far-right figures are going to impact the broader media discussion, or push their party. It serves them, and Russia, to muddy the waters and confuse Americans.
[Russia is] trying to get dirty information into the online ecosystem and hope it is picked up by websites and individuals with larger reach.
In a way, this will be a test for American social media companies if things really escalate.
[Fort Detrick] has often played this sort of central role in conspiracy theories. But this one, of course, has tried to connect the origins of COVID-19 to the lab by essentially saying that the outbreak jumped from Fort Detrick to Wuhan brought over by members of the U.S. military.
Whether or not anyone is buying into lobster or Fort Detrick being the source of Covid, it’s at least having the effect of muddying the truth and confusing people.
There's clearly a huge demand for what Russia is selling here among Germans. And that, I think, across the West is deeply concerning.