Centre for Defence Strategies

Pekka Kallioniemi: Elon Musk can be classified as a “vatnik”

“First of all, Elon Musk, his company SpaceX, certainly helped Ukraine a lot when it turned on Starlink in Ukraine and sent these communication terminals there. So people could still stay in touch with each other and so on. But since then, Elon Musk has been quite controversial in his statements. And, in fact, someone said it well that it’s like watching a person become radicalized in real time, because the situation is getting worse and worse and worse in terms of what Elon Musk is promoting on Twitter/X.

And if you follow this path, at some point some of the messages became quite pro-Kremlin and anti-Ukrainian, in my opinion. And I think most people would agree with that. In addition, the changes he made to the platform have made it much easier for disinformation and Kremlin propaganda to spread, and it’s spreading much faster now. So it works on many levels.

Obviously, he believes in these narratives himself, but he’s also made it easier for other super-propagandists to spread these messages. And again, he also promotes and shares those views. So I think that’s a very damaging combination of factors when it comes to Elon Musk. But basically, I think that probably the most famous example of Elon Musk sharing pro-Kremlin views is that he shared a meme about President Zelensky.

Some people may have already seen it, basically about Zelensky asking for more money, and this meme shows him in a negative light. It is now quite obvious that Elon Musk can be classified as a ‘vatnik,'” says the guest of the new episode, who is the founder of the Vatnik Soup Twitter project aimed at identifying the so-called super distributors of Russian propaganda in the West.

Why can people like Elon Musk be so influenced by Russian propaganda? How do Russians reach such people and how do they force them to transform? What approaches does Russia use, what key narratives does it spread on social media, and how can we counter them?

In the new episode of the podcast “(Un)Safe Country”, its permanent host Alina Frolova talks to Pekka Kallioniemi, a postdoctoral researcher, who works in the field of human-computer interaction at the University of Tampere, is an expert in social media and studies how propaganda is spread on social media and how to counter it. The conversation is about information, Russian propaganda, countering disinformation, social media, the danger of TikTok, social media, bots, trolls, and artificial intelligence.

Source: Ukrainska Pravda