From: Alice Taylor
Western Balkan Disinformation Campaigns Found Interfering in Australian Elections

Disinformation campaigns linked to Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia have been found to be interfering in the Australian elections, according to an inquiry by the Australian government.

The campaigns, run through Facebook and Twitter have been spreading fake news and disinformation with the aim of disrupting the elections. Analysts from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute told the inquiry how broad the campaigns had been.

Networks of pages have built a large audience that caters to Australians that are agitated over issues such as refugees, Islam, and political correctness. In fact, these pages are under the control of Balkan troll factories who make money out of the problems and trouble they stir up.

The pages identified through several investigations host a mix of patriotic and agitation memes combined with news items copied and pasted from mainstream media onto other platforms. This content is generally xenophobic and discriminatory and also targets opposition politicians from Labor, Greens, and Liberals.

The pages have a combined following of over 130,000 followers. Some individual posts have been shared upwards of 20,000 times.

Analysts submitted a document to the inquiry in March, detailing how disinformation actors in the Balkans were making money from spreading Islamophobia content during the elections.

“A combined audience of 130,000 Facebook users across four Facebook pages were steered off the platform towards content farms that generated advertising revenue from each page view,” the submission read.

“These activities have the potential to skew Australia’s political discourse, influence voting behaviour and affect electoral outcomes.”

The report and parallel investigation is expected to be concluded by May 2022.