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Russia, China, and Iran try to escalate conflicts in US universities through internet

Russia, China, and Iran try to escalate conflicts in US universities through internet Protests at the Colombian University (photo:

Russia, China, and Iran are using media outlets under their control, as well as inauthentic social media accounts, bots, or fake online publications to escalate tensions among American students and in the US overall amid protests in university towns over the situation in the Gaza Strip, according to The New York Times.

The New York Times spoke with researchers who have identified both overt and covert efforts by Russia, China, and Iran to amplify protests in the US since their inception.

Experts did not find direct attempts to organize protests or provoke violence. Instead, the focus was on highlighting the divisions that the Gaza conflict has revealed in public opinion in the US and the potential impact these divisions may have on US government policy.

In just the past two weeks, state media in Russia, China, and Iran have published nearly 400 articles in English about the protests. The countries have also launched waves of content through inauthentic accounts or bots on social media platforms such as X and Telegram. Websites have also been used, as in the case of Russia, to mimic Western news outlets.

The protests in university towns across the US, which have gained momentum in recent weeks, have allowed them to focus their propaganda on the Biden administration's staunch support for Israel, claiming that it undermines his international credibility and does not reflect the sentiments of the American people.

China, Russia, and Iran also push the narrative that US police actions against students are manifestations of state totalitarianism.

Researchers identify relatively popular social media accounts that, for example, repost from fake pages of government officials or diplomats. Sometimes, such posts contain calls for aggressive actions directed at American students.

The influence operations were tracked by researchers from Clemson and NewsGuard, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, the Democracy Fund, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and the threat analysis company Recorded Future.

They note that the focus on the protests followed similar attempts to discredit the $95.3 billion American aid package to Israel, Taiwan, and Ukraine.

Protests at college campuses in the US

In college towns across the US, protests are currently ongoing, mostly against Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip. Sometimes these protests lead to clashes with the police.

For example, recently at Columbia University in New York, protesting students occupied one of the campus buildings. This occurred shortly after the university began to expel students who remained in a tent city they had set up.