Fraud Management & Cybercrime , Social Media

US Sanctions 'Key Actors' in Russian Disinformation Campaign

Treasury Department Sanctions Heads of Russian 'Influence-for-Hire' Firms
US Sanctions 'Key Actors' in Russian Disinformation Campaign
The Untied States sanctioned Russian companies and their leaders for spreading disinformation. (Image: Shutterstock)

The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned the heads of multiple Russian-based companies for spearheading disinformation campaigns that impersonated legitimate media outlets and government organizations across the globe.

See Also: Unmasking Risk for Due Diligence, KYC and Fraud

Ilya Andreevich Gambashidze, founder of the Moscow-based Social Design Agency, and Nikolai Aleksandrovich Tupikin, CEO of the Russian Company Group Structura LLC, were both "involved in a persistent foreign malign influence campaign at the direction of the Russian presidential administration," according to an announcement published Wednesday.

The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control said it was sanctioning Gambashidze and Tupikin, as well as the entire SDA and Structura companies, for serving as "key actors" in a disinformation campaign involving 60 websites that mimicked credible news outlets across Europe leading into fall 2022. The companies also created a network of misleading social media accounts "to amplify the content of the spoofed websites," according to the announcement.

The administration's increased focus on combating anti-democratic misinformation campaigns comes amid a historic year of voting around the world, with more than approximately half the world's population expected head to the polls in 2024.

The Department of State in November warned that SDA and Structura, as well as the Institute for Internet Development, coordinated an information manipulation campaign targeting Latin America. State described Structure and SDA as "influence-for-hire" firms that were spreading anti-NATO and anti-U.S. views across countries including Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador and Paraguay, among others.

Brian Nelson, undersecretary of the Treasury Department for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the agency is "committed to exposing Russia's extensive campaigns of government-directed deception, which are intended to mislead voters and undermine trust in democratic institutions in the United States and around the world."

The Treasury Department's latest sanctions block all properties and investments in the U.S. owned by Gambashidze and Tupikin or associated with SDA and Structura. U.S. financial institutions and American citizens are also prohibited from engaging in transactions with the sanctioned entities.

About the Author

Chris Riotta

Chris Riotta

Managing Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Riotta is a journalist based in Washington, D.C. He earned his master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he served as 2021 class president. His reporting has appeared in NBC News, Nextgov/FCW, Newsweek Magazine, The Independent and more.

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