Eight anonymous Telegram channels published unsupported claims that protests in Belarus against the country’s plan for further integration with Russia were organized and controlled by the Belarusian government.
The spread of disinformation through pro-Russian anonymous Telegram channels represents a growing concern for Belarusian civil society and media observers. The messaging app Telegram has more than 200 million users globally and is being increasingly used as a means of spreading disinformation. In late 2019, these Telegram channels targeted anti-integration protests in Belarus. The renewal of integration talks between Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin heightened worries among some Belarusians that Russia may want to absorb their country. In order to signal that Belarus would not surrender the independence regained after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Belarusian opposition parties organized several rounds of protests.