Jun 3, 2024 - World

Russian misinformation campaign targets Paris Olympics, report says

Paris' city hall decorated with Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games' poster

Paris city hall decorated with Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games' posters on March 21. Photo: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP via Getty Images

Russian propagandists are seeking to discredit the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and incite fears of terrorism at this summer's Olympic Games in Paris, according to a new Microsoft report released Sunday.

Why it matters: The report warned that the Russian campaign could expand and intensify in the run up to the start of the Paris Games in late July.

Driving the news: Two "prolific Russian influence actors" known as Storm-1679 and Storm-1099 have spearheaded the online campaign to sow fear about the Olympics, according to the report from the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center.

  • Efforts to target the Paris Games began in June 2023, when Storm-1679 released a fake documentary called "Olympics Has Fallen." It was narrated by AI-generated audio that resembled the voice of Tom Cruise and ridiculed IOC leadership, per a Microsoft press release.
  • The film also had a bogus marketing campaign, featuring fake five-star reviews from The Washington Post and the New York Times.

State of play: Over the past year, Storm-1679 has released a series of videos made to look like legitimate news reports from real media outlets regarding fears of violence at the Paris Games.

  • One of the videos — purported to be from Brussels-based Euronews — claimed that Parisians were buying property insurance ahead of the Games for fear of terrorist attacks.
  • The "most worrisome" efforts have seen Storm-1679 take advantage of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war to impersonate militants and threaten violence against Israelis attending the Games.
  • The group Storm-1099 has released spoofs of French media outlets warning of violence at the Games and playing up allegations of corruption at the IOC.

Threat level: "We are likely to see renewed efforts to launch influence campaigns messaging in English, German, French, and other languages to maximize visibility and traction online" as the Games draw nearer, the report stated.

  • This will likely include a "tactical shift" from video to online bots and automated social media accounts that can flood social media channels while offering Russia plausible deniability, per the report.
  • The IOC did not immediately respond on Monday to Axios' request for comment on the report.

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