After Papadopoulos told Downer in 2016 that Russia possessed damaging material about then-US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Downer told US authorities, helping prompt the investigation led by Robert Mueller.
Since pleading guilty in court, however, a Twitter account in Papadopoulos's name has claimed that Australia was part of a conspiracy against him.
Only today the Papadopoulos account tweeted that Downer was not "repping Australia" and that "America deserves the truth."
The Greek-American energy analyst has portrayed himself as a victim and, in his counter-factual history of the Mueller probe, he is arguing that it is an Australian effort to attack a US presidential candidate, not a Russian effort to subvert US democracy.
...By Papadopoulos’ own admission, the intended audience for his some of his social media messages was Australia. In a November 4 tweet, (later deleted), Papadopoulos wrote: “Decided am going to start talking to Australia directly.”
He then made the fanciful claim that: “Alexander Downer was an errand boy for the Clinton’s," who "might have single-handedly disrupted the US-Australia relationship to safeguard his ties to the Clintons.” He also claimed the UK, Australia and the Obama administration was "running disinformation operations" against the Trump campaign.
Earlier, on September 22, he posted: “Australia, if you are listening, do not sacrafice [sic] and damage your relationship with the USA to protect Alexander Downer. He sold you out for the sole purpose to try and sabotage Donald Trump to keep his links to the Clintons alive and well."
...Papadopoulos’ social media effort appears to be, among other things, a crack at reshaping perceptions within Australia about Downer, Western intelligence and the Mueller probe, while potentially sowing distrust between Australia and its traditional allies.
Papadopoulos’ counter-narratives underscore how easy it is to bring misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theory into the public sphere in part because social media platforms allow for disinformation to be shared and spread easily.
Partially, also, the human mind welcomes information - even if false - that reaffirms biases, an issue relevant to understanding the spread of propaganda online.
...Fred P. Hoffman, former US intelligence officer with experience in information operations, described Papadopoulos’ campaign as appearing “to be an individual effort at disinformation."
A Gofundme account bearing Papadopoulos's name and photograph is even looking for donations to support his cause.
The conspiratorial claims by Papadopoulos would be simply unusual if they didn’t follow a pattern seen elsewhere involving public figures, Russia, social media, and a counter-narrative of events. These efforts too often involve online fundraising.
Russia has also sought to sow divisions between Western allies, such as the Five Eyes alliance, for decades.
... Keir Giles, a fellow at the London-based Chatham House, described Papadopoulos's recent effort “in the same vein but less competent and less effective,” than Butina, Snowden or Assange.
“He looks like another individual that in a former, pre-Twitter age would have been found in the park shouting his conspiracy theories at the pigeons,” said Giles.
Nevertheless, as seen with the use of conspiracy theory around the Skripal poisonings, Seth Rich’s death, or Q-Anon, poor logical consistency is no barrier to their spread.
Often, all that’s needed to fuel disinformation online is for a compelling idea to be inserted into the fertile ground of an audience willing to believe it.