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Videos on TikTok promoting Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group

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NewsGuard, an American project to verify the accuracy and transparency of news sites, on December 1 published a search on TikTok and the hundreds of videos celebrating the Wagner group, made up of mercenaries known to have carried out interventions in several countries in recent years, in the service of the Russian government. According to NewsGuard, the videos, with very violent content, do not respect the rules of the platform, but they are there and have been viewed more than a billion times.

The Wagner Group is a private security company made up mainly of former military personnel, former police officers and former Russian security personnel. It has existed for about ten years: formally it is a private group of mercenaries, but in fact it has always been quite close to President Vladimir Putin, who has used it on several occasions as an instrument of his military tactics, with operations in various countries that had an interest in intervening, including Libya, Syria, Mali and the Central African Republic.

Wagner is considered one of the most effective mercenary groups in the world. He has a pro-Nazi ideology and has been accused by various international organizations of committing war crimes and torturing. It has been present in Ukraine since at least 2014, when Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean peninsula. Formally, the group is prohibited by law from operating in Russia, like all other organizations that recruit and train mercenaries: this is one of the reasons why the Russian government has always denied having links with them. Recently, however, things seem to have changed. A series of episodes showed how in the Ukrainian war the Wagner group became an integral part of the Russian forces, even an essential component of them.

NewsGuard has identified 160 TikTok videos that “show, celebrate or reference acts of violence committed by the Wagner Group”. Fourteen of these videos appear to show all or part of the execution of former Russian mercenary Yevgeny Nuzhin, which took place in October 2022 . Nuzhin said he was recruited by the group while in prison in Russia, but later decided to defect and fight for Ukraine. The head of the Wagner group he defined the video of the execution is a “great job of directing”, but he denied having any involvement in the execution.

While NewsGuard was doing its analysis, TikTok deleted ten of those videos, presumably for violating its guidelines. However, one had been viewed at least 900,000 times before TikTok took it down.

NewsGuard then identified more than 500 music videos which, it says, “although they do not include violent content, incite violence against Ukrainians.” And even those 500 videos “appear to violate TikTok’s guidelines” which prohibit content that “praises, promotes, glorifies, or expresses support for violent acts” and videos that “assault, threaten, incite violence, or dehumanize an individual.” or a group”.

The researchers eventually found, also on TikTok, five accounts that direct users to sites where Wagner regularly posts job ads. And they identified ten hashtags directly related to the Wagner band, which were then used in hundreds of videos, most of which promote the band. NewsGuard explains that “videos featuring the top three hashtags associated with the Russian-speaking group Wagner have collectively been viewed well over a billion times.”

Responding by email to a request for comment from NewsGuard, TikTok did not dispute the results of this analysis, but knew that on their platform “there is no place for violent or hateful content” and that they will take action “on content that violates these rules”.

Source: ilpost

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