Russian propaganda floods the public space ahead of the Paris Games

Russia has been waging an intense disinformation campaign aimed at tarnishing the International Olympic Committee and fueling fears of violence at this summer's Paris Games.
That's according to a new report from Microsoft's Threat Analysis Center.

According to Microsoft, the influence operations used a powerful combination of fake videos, fake news and artificial intelligence-generated imitations, including the fake voice of Hollywood star Tom Cruise.

"Russia is stepping up these malicious campaigns against France, President Emmanuel Macron, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Paris Olympics," Clint Watts, general manager of Microsoft's Threat Analysis Center, said in his blog, AFP reported.

"Although Russia has a decades-long history of attacks on the Olympics, the Center is observing old tactics mixed with artificial intelligence ... which may intensify as the opening ceremony of the 2024 Paris Olympics approaches," he added.

The report reveals that two prolific Russian cyberattack groups, Storm-1679 and Doppelganger, have changed their operations over the past year to target the Olympics directly.

Their malicious activities escalated in June 2023 with the release of a full-length fake documentary titled "Olympics Fallen" on Telegram.

Using an AI-generated voice imitating Top Gun actor Cruise, slick computer graphics and an elaborate marketing campaign, the film vilifies the IOC in an apparent attempt to undermine global public support for the games.

Storm-1679 also repeatedly produced and distributed fake videos, newscasts and press statements falsely claiming that terror fears had caused a wave of ticket cancellations and property insurance purchases among Parisians.

Meanwhile, threat group Doppelganger has boosted anti-Olympic messages on its network of 15 disinformation websites and spoofed content from French news outlets such as Le Parisien to smear Macron.

Microsoft suspects that Russian groups are also behind the spread of fake graffiti threatening to repeat the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics by Palestinian militants.

As the opening ceremony on July 26 approaches, Microsoft expects Russian disinformation to intensify in more languages ​​and media formats.

Watts warned that campaigns could even try to carry out actual provocations near Olympic sites to sow further chaos.

The campaign is not unexpected.

In April, Macron said he had "no doubts" about Russia's malicious actions against the Paris Olympics, including the use of disinformation.

The Kremlin "feeds every day the idea that we can't do this or that, that there is a risk," he said. | BGNES