A network of pro-Kremlin accounts on X pushed fake Fox News articles in the hours ahead of Thursday’s presidential debate, attempting to spread false narratives including one about former President Donald Trump’s support in the business community.

The fake articles, first reported on X by the account @antibot4navalny, an anonymous group of analysts tracking Russia-related influence operations, directed people to a fake version of Fox News’ website. That website appears to be part of a known Russian disinformation campaign that has mimicked legitimate news websites from Le Monde in France to The Washington Post. E.U. researchers dubbed it the doppelgänger network in 2022. 

In March, Alethea, a company that researches online risks including disinformation, identified 81 websites and more than 5,000 X accounts as part of the campaign. 

The messages posted Thursday on X from some of those accounts, many of which rarely post, were unique but carried similar messaging and had been reposted thousands of times by early afternoon. “Biden’s presidency could be our downfall. Trump seems to be our only hope of recovery,” one read. Many pointed to a fake article with the headline “Businesses Chooses Trump and a Great America” that claimed businesspeople from Silicon Valley and beyond were lining up to support Trump. 

Laundering propaganda through Kremlin-created or approved news outlets is a tried and true tactic, but this campaign has taken on a modern twist. It uses a fake website that credibly imitates a legitimate news outlet, sharing links through a network of seemingly automated accounts in a way that is not easily detected by platforms and researchers. 

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