Groups of Death: Threat to Russia’s National Security

22 мая, 10:00

Groups of Death: Threat to Russia’s National Security

The Caucasus Geopolitical Club (CGC) analytical report is co-authored by Yana Amelina, the CGC author and Secretary-Coordinator, and Emilia Chelerina.

May 22, 2017, 18+

A large network of groups use the Russian Vkonakte social networking service to conduct destructive activities aimed at destabilizing the situation in the Russian Federation. This study offers a detailed assessment of the threat.

In May, 2016 public attention was riveted on Vkontakte death groups encouraging suicide (reaching the daily audience of 90 million to exceed the coverage of the First TV channel).  A few hundred public pages were constantly renewed (from dozens to millions of subscribers) to spread around the content of largely depressive or aggressive nature, which is close to encouragement of suicide. These activities mostly target young people, especially teenagers.  

The destructive effect is of long duration. At a given moment, a youngster can be pushed to commit a suicide or an aggressive act of criminal nature. A perpetrator can have various types of motivation while performing actions prompted by public, political, religious and other events.

The young people influenced by depressive and aggressive content spread around by social networks can be involved in terrorist operations. The study of death groups’ activities shows they greatly resemble those of the Islamic State group – an organization banned on the territory of the Russian Federation.     

The groups’ organizers select candidates taking into consideration personality traits, temperament and other features.  The young people they choose are inculcated the thought of killing other people. Quite often the list of selected individuals includes radicals influenced by Nazi thinking (such as the Khabarovsk shooter) or those likely to commit a suicide. Ultra radical, Islamic State type and conditionally suicidal mindsets have a lot in common.   

A suicide bomber dies along with the victims of terrorist act. It’s logical to surmise that on global scale the activities are guided from the same centers. The West’s involvement is clearly visible. A major part of the death groups’ content is a translation from English; the public pages raise the issues which are more relevant in the West, than Russia, like abortion debate, for instance. 

Those who guide the process have been making “near suicidal” depressive public pages increasingly politically oriented. The promulgation of anti-Russian content has been on the rise since March. Anti-Christian (especially critical toward the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Kirill personally), pro-terrorist (the ones that de-facto vindicate terrorist acts and the suffering the victims go through), and pro-pedophilia materials are promoted to influence young people.

Vkontakte is used for progressive promotion of unprovoked aggressive behavior and mems glorifying cruelty and violence, pushing the brainwashed victims to commit actions leading to bloodshed.        

The stories like the Columbine High School Massacre and Jeff the Killer (animated cartoon) praise the desire to imagine oneself being a gun shooting at people’s faces.  They get thousands (!) of “likes” to create fertile ground for spreading the ideas of violence among youngsters, including actions motivated by ideology or religion.     

Vkontakte is widely used for making go viral anti-government and anti-president slogans against the background of the ongoing 2018 presidential campaign. Since a long time ago, messengers and social networks have turned into the sources of spreading fake news and   unfounded rumors, like false warnings about terrorist acts.

The instigating of public hysteria and fear by anonymous actors pursues the goal of destabilizing the strategically important regions of Russia, especially the northern part of the Caucasus, the Volga region, Moscow and St. Petersburg. 

The destructive effect is strengthened by materials undermining moral standards, propagating promiscuity, homosexualism, Satanism etc. to negatively affect the society as a whole.

Evidently, these activities constitute a threat to Russia’s national security. The following steps must be taken to counter the destructive influence among young people:

-            Prohibition of anonymous sources in Internet and the use of social networks by the young people under 14;

-            Elimination of all destructive content in Vkontakte. The management team should take on more responsibility for the network’s activities.  The Vkontakte network service should be closed if appropriate measures are not taken;

- Identification and educational talks of preventive character with subscribers to death groups, especially those who display increased interest in the materials propagating violence.

It should be noted that the young people are used for testing standard political, social and media technologies created for exerting influence on the contemporary society. The methods tried could be used to influence adults. Facebook flash mob campaigns are a good example. The attempt to manipulate the mindset of young and grown-up people evidently constitutes a threat to the Russia’s national security.

Repressive measures and bans are a must but they are not enough for finding a solution to the problem. Other extremist groups will take the place of the ones eliminated in Vkontakte and real life until a state ideology is formulated. The role of traditional religions, like Russian Orthodoxy and Islam, should grow, especially among school goers.

The report is the first study in Russia providing regular update and analytical information on the issue. It contains a lot of illustrations to support the key provisions. The study will be helpful for law enforcement officers, political scholars, sociologists, culture experts, professionals working with children etc.

  22 мая, 10:00