The White Helmets, also known as the Syria Civil Defence, are a humanitarian volunteer group that provide medical, evacuation, and search and rescue assistance in Syria. The group has also been the subject of an Oscar winning film that depicts their bravery, saving lives in some of the most dangerous incidents in the Syrian Civil War, and have also been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and won ‘alternative Nobel prize’ from the Right Livelihood Award Foundation. According the fact checking website snopes.com the organisation has been the subject of a Russian-Syrian disinformation campaign also, with activists and bloggers with links to these two countries attempting tie the White Helmet to terrorism and the staging of mass casualty events.
This is nothing new however, as far back as the Franco-Prussian War and the Balkan Uprisings of the 19th century humanitarian groups have become targets with their motives questioned. Red Cross hospitals being bombed and volunteers shot during The Siege of Paris in 1870 following allegations of spying and using the red cross symbol as cover. In a similar way the White Helmets have become targets in a modern day disinformation war playing out online, in which the Russian propaganda machine is using rumors, conspiracy, half-truths, and disputed videos, to feed alternative narratives of alt-right commentators, anti-imperialists, conspiracy theorists and trolls. At the end of the day anyone can put on a white helmet, and despite some minor controversies, which have led to one member being barred, there is no evidence to support such claims, with the videos claiming to show the White Helmets supporting terrorists being unverified.