Turkey’s Syria offensive boosted by coordinated social media propaganda - AP

When Turkey launched its Operation Peace Spring against Kurdish-led militias in northern Syria last month, its troops on the field were accompanied by a large-scale and sophisticated propaganda campaign on social media, Associated Press reported on Friday.

Thousands of false and misleading images showing Turkish soldiers helping civilians spread across Twitter and Instagram, boosted by popular hashtags and shared or retweeted thousands of times, said AP.

“Except some of the photos weren’t of Turkish soldiers. None of them were recent and some had been taken in parts of Syria unconnected to the invasion - even in other parts of the world,” the report said.

A counterweight to Turkey’s perception operation came from Kurdish activists, who shared images showing horrific images of the war, many of which also turned out to be misleading.

But the major difference was that the pro-Turkish tweets showed signs of coordination through a network of Twitter accounts that “amplified the content through trending hashtags and retweets,” AP said.

The hashtags included #TurkishArmyForThePeace and #TurkeyIsJustKillingTerrorists, and the dozens of misrepresented images included one purporting to show a Turkish soldier carrying an elderly Syrian woman that was actually shot by AP during flooding evacuations in Pakistan in 2010.

A Twitter spokeswoman told the news agency her company had not seen any evidence of a coordinated campaign.

However, an independent analysis by social media monitor VineSight showed “several accounts that promoted these and other misleading pro-Turkey photos on Twitter in the invasion’s early days not only found signs of automation, but also noted that an overwhelming majority of the accounts’ followers listed locations in Pakistan.”