Fake: Ukraine To Accept 20,000 Refugees Instead Of Germany

StopFake.org - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 10:17

Citing a Bavarian newspaper, last week scores of pro-Kremlin media claimed that Ukraine would accept 20,000 refugees instead of Germany with headlines such as Why does Poroshenko need militants from Asia and Africa?

Citing a German publication called Kraichgau News, Russian media claim that by the end of 2018 Ukraine will accept no less than 20,000 refugees most likely those who are currently in Bavaria. This deal allegedly resulted from an agreement with Ukraine’s Interior Ministry and its German counterpart and Ukraine is actively preparing for the reception of such a large number of people.

Website screenshot RIA

This fake began to be widely republished in Russian media during the recent EU Eastern Partnership summit at the end of November. The Eastern Partnership is a European Union program launched in 2009 in the framework of European Neighborhood Policy and addressed to six countries in Eastern Europe: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Kraichgau News is neither Bavarian nor is it a newspaper. It is an internet portal where anyone can post their information based in the Baden-Württemberg area. A user calling themselves Kerstin Neumann who wrote the article that Russian media cite registered with the Kraichgau News portal one day before publishing her fake story on November 1.

Replying to StopFake’s inquiry about these claims, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry confirmed that German diplomat  Dorothea Metschkowski. who specializes in human rights, recently presented a human rights project in Kyiv aimed at fostering tolerance towards refugees in Ukraine. All other claims about refuges are patently false, the ministry said.

While Ukraine is actively cooperating with Germany on human rights issues, there is no agreement between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel regarding refugees.

Categories: World News

Lavrov: West is blocking chemical weapons inspections in Syria — Not True

StopFake.org - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 23:54

NETHERLANDS — The logo of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is seen during a special session in the Hague, Netherlands June 26, 2018

By Polygraph

Sergei Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister

Commenting on the chemical attack that allegedly took place on Syrian territory, Lavrov noted that ‘such situations have happened in the past — 2016, Khan-Sheikhoun, 2017, East Ghouta.’ As the minister recalled, in the first case Russia insisted on an OPCW inspection, but ‘Western colleagues blocked the inspectors’ way’.”

Source: TV Zvezda


It is Russia and the Syrian regime who block OPCW inspectors from investigating chemical attacks in Syria, not the West.

On August 29, TV Zvezda, the Russian Defense Ministry’s news channel, published a story on its website which quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commenting on the situation in Syria. In it, Lavrov referred to several past cases of chemical weapons use in Syria, including in Eastern Ghouta and Khan Sheikhoun. He claimed that Russia called for inspections by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), but that Russia’s “Western colleagues” moved to block these inspections.

This is false: Western countries like the United States did not try to block OPCW inspections in Syria. In fact, Russia and its Syrian government ally have impeded the OPCW’s work several times.

SYRIA — UN vehicles carrying Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) team of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrive at the Four Seasons hotel in Damascus, April 14, 2018

One of the first major chemical attacks in Syria occurred on August 21, 2013, in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus. The Syrian government allowed OPCW inspectors to visit the site on August 25. Although British authorities warned that evidence could have been tampered with or destroyed during the time between when the attack was reported and the inspectors arrived, Western authorities did not try to impede the inspections. A subsequent U.N. report confirmed that the nerve agent sarin had been used in the attack.

After that incident, the U.S. agreed to a proposal by Russia to cooperate in destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles under the supervision of the OPCW.

Since then, however, additional chemical attacks have taken place, some involving sarin and others using chlorine. This past April, an apartment block in Douma was hit with a chlorine canister dropped from a regime helicopter.

Polygraph.info has done several fact checks about Russia’s attempt to distort the incident, and documented how OPCW inspectors were initially barred from the site of the attack.

SYRIA — Unidentified volunteers give aid to children at a hospital following an alleged chemical attack on the rebel-held town, April 8, 2018

While claiming to support inspections and investigations concerning these chemical attacks, Russia has actively moved to prevent such inspections from happening. In April, Polygraph.info documented six occasions when Russia used its veto power on the U.N. Security Council to block resolutions relating to chemical weapons use in Syria. Most notably, Russia vetoed the renewal of the U.N.-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) in 2017. In October 2017, the JIM released a report blaming the Syrian regime for using chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun.

Also, while Russian authorities routinely call for “objective investigations” into chemical attacks, Russian state media have reacted negatively when investigators have implicated the Syrian regime. For example, Polygraph.info reported in May on a case in which Russian state media claimed that the OPCW received its samples from “jihadists.” No evidence was presented to support this claim.

Russian officials have recently claimed that “staged” chemical attacks were being prepared by rebels in Idlib, where the Syrian regime is preparing to launch an offensive. No evidence has been presented for these claims. In fact, Polygraph.info caught Russian state media and official Russian Foreign Ministry social media accounts using misleading photos to support allegations that chemical attacks in Syria have been staged by the opposition.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

Countering information influence activities: A handbook for communicators

StopFake.org - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 21:25

By RIB-Meny

The handbook aims to assist and support communication specialists in public administration to identify, analyse and counter information influence activities in order to mitigate their impact on society. A central principle for all activities described in this handbook is that they always comply with Swedish laws and principles on freedom of expression and freedom of the press, on which our democracy is founded. This publication is also available in Swedish Att möta informationspåverkan – Handbok för kommunikatörer Order. No: MSB1260 – juli 2018 ISBN: 978-91-7383-864-1

PDF is available here.

By RIB-Meny

Categories: World News

Is there really data that heavy Facebook use caused…erm, is correlated with…erm, is linked to real-life hate crimes?

StopFake.org - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 21:17

Illustration from L.M Glackens’ The Yellow Press (1910) via The Public Domain Review

Plus: Does all our yammering about fake news make people think real news is fake?

By Shan Wang, for NiemanLab

The growing stream of reporting on and data about fake news, misinformation, partisan content, and news literacy is hard to keep up with. This weekly roundup offers the highlights of what you might have missed.

Study says heavy Facebook use is linked to more hate crimes against asylum seekers in Germany. Wait, is that what it says? The New York Times on Monday published a story, datelined from a “pro-refugee” German town, exploring the terrifying trajectory of actual German Facebook superusers who become radicalized through their intense activity in anti-refugee bubbles on social media, and commit real-life acts of violence. The piece, by Amanda Taub and Max Fisher of the Interpreter column, leaned on a previously covered working paper from researchers at the University of Warwick, and described the paper’s key finding as follows:

Towns where Facebook use was higher than average, like Altena, reliably experienced more attacks on refugees. That held true in virtually any sort of community — big city or small town; affluent or struggling; liberal haven or far-right stronghold — suggesting that the link applies universally.

Their reams of data converged on a breathtaking statistic: Wherever per-person Facebook use rose to one standard deviation above the national average, attacks on refugees increased by about 50 percent.

Shortly thereafter, academics began tussling over both the study’s quality and how it was portrayed in the Times piece.

Without access to comprehensive user behavior data from Facebook, the researchers chose what they considered next best approximations. They looked at, for instance, 39,632 posters on the public Facebook page for the newish right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland as a proxy for how much towns were exposed to nationwide anti-refugee content on social media. They looked at 21,915 Facebook users on the Nutella Facebook page (which the paper says is one of the most followed pages in Germany, though it cites a global number rather than a German one) for whom they could pinpoint location as a proxy for how active the not specifically right-wing, general populations of these towns are on Facebook. Are these good proxies? Critics weren’t so sure. But I’m not sure it’s a totally terrible proxy, either.

This is 100% true, and perhaps the more important take away here. Researcha shouldn’t have to scrape Nutella pages for social data of upmost importance https://t.co/n8e066e2RJ

— hal (@halhod) August 22, 2018

The paper also finds when there were internet and Facebook outages in heavy Facebook-use towns in the time period studied, there were fewer total attacks against refugees. Critics were wary of this, too. Causation? Correlation? And are we sure we know what is causing what, as the Times story is so forcefully arguing?

It’s a narrative that feels right — there’s a lot of hateful shit posted on Facebook, and that avalanche of content eventually whips up very engaged users into a hateful frenzy that pushes them over the edge in real life. The Times story has real anecdotes of people going through this transformation, and others witnessing these transformations in their communities. But it leans on this working paper to neaten the narrative, and reality is anything but neat.

We should probably be careful with just how much coverage we’re centering around fake news. There’s evidence that when people who are perceived to be “elites” — such as politicians, journalists, or certain activists — bring up fake news, that talk itself can subsequently lead to people being unsure about the veracity of real news stories, according to a new study by Emily Van Duyn and Jessica Collier of the University of Texas at Austin.

In the study, participants recruited via Mechanical Turk were first asked to classify the subject matter of tweets that were either about fake news or the federal budget. The tweets weren’t taken from actual Twitter but generated by the researchers, hinted at real organizations like NPR or the Sierra Club, and came from verified accounts with white, male names and avatars. Participants were then asked to read several news articles, some of which were fake, and asked to determine whether they thought the articles were real, fake (or that they weren’t sure which). The results indicated that seeing tweets about fake news had messed with people’s ability to identify real news articles as real, regardless of whether the participant identified as conservative or liberal.

Individuals primed with elite discourse about fake news identified real news with less accuracy than those who were not primed. As expected, political knowledge related to accurate identification of real news, where the more knowledgeable were more accurate than the less knowledgeable. Neither of these findings were true for the identification of fake news. Individuals primed with discourse about fake news were not more accurate in their identification of fake news than those who were not primed, and political knowledge also appeared to have no effect.

“Overall, these results point to a troubling effect,” the researchers conclude. “A similar ability to identify fake news between those in the prime and control conditions means that efforts to call attention to the differences between fake and real news may be instead making the distinction less clear.”

Here’s a theory that WhatsApp could moderate content if it wanted to.WhatsApp has always said end-to-end encryption makes flagging hoaxes on its end impossible. But if they do retain message metadata for some period of time, could they do some content moderation on their end? It would get to the root of the problem faster than many of these noble, WhatsApp-focused fact-checking initiatives popping up around the world.

That’s the approach Himanshu Gupta and Harsh Taneja put forward in a piece for CJR. They write:

[E]ven if WhatsApp can’t actually read the contents of a message, it [may be able to] access the unique cryptographic hash of that message (which it uses to enable instant forwarding), the time the message was sent, and other metadata. It can also potentially determine who sent a particular file to whom. In short, it can track a message’s journey on its platform (and thereby, fake news) and identify the originator of that message.

If WhatsApp can identify a particular a message’s metadata precisely, it can tag that message as “fake news” after appropriate content moderation. It can be argued that WhatsApp can also, with some tweaks to its algorithm, identify the original sender of a fake news image, video, or text and potentially also stop that content from further spreading on its network.

So are they suggesting a chat app get into the business of deleting content? Yep. “While WhatsApp may insist that it does not want to get into content moderation, or that building traceability of fake news messages would undermine end-to-end encryption, we suggest the authorities should ask them to do so going forward, considering the increasing severity of the fake news problem,” they write.

To be clear, WhatsApp didn’t actually confirm any of this metadata stuff to the authors. 

Categories: World News

#PackOfLies: How Moldova protects itself against disinformation

StopFake.org - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 20:47

By Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis

Though Moldova is daily bombarded by huge amounts of disinformation, there are active groups in the country working on disclosing and countering propaganda. They not only seek to expose to the society a range of different lies spread but also teach how to fight disinformation. Three main initiatives, working on disclosing and fighting propaganda, operate in the country.

One of the best-known initiatives is ‘Stop Fals!’. The goal of this project is to expand the capabilities to recognize disinformation for independent media. A campaign against spreading propaganda has also been launched. In order to achieve these goals, members of the initiative conduct research about the types of disinformation, analyze specific disinformation examples and present their rebuttals. The campaign is active not only on the internet: the local newspapers that can more easily reach a wider group of readers also discuss the phenomenon of fake news. The project’s success is marked by the launch of an imitative portal ‘Stopfals.com’ which started to post false stories about disclosed disinformation.

But the major problem is that this campaign limits itself by analyzing only the local content. It misses opportunities to combat pro-Kremlin narratives whose primary sources are Russian or sometimes even Western. That is why ‘Stop Fals!’ could be best described as a tool for observing local media and developing citizens’ awareness of fake news in local outlets.

Meanwhile, the ‘Sic.md’ project seeks to recognize the lies, inaccuracies and manipulations in influential public speeches. The project also observes the promises of politicians and notifies of the breaches of ethics in the media and public declarations. The website has a user-friendly interface and its creators post about the breaches and their analyses everyday. The portal also allows the readers to report lies. The ‘Sic.md’ project could be regarded as a tool to foster political responsibility and accountability, especially when taking a closer look at pro-Kremlin politicians.

‘Sic.md’ has some flaws as it is limited to one website only, whereas ‘StopFals!’ posts its articles in other sources too. Moreover, due to the lack of resources the initiative does not have a well-developed communication process.

The ‘TROLLESS’ project operates as a browser extension which identifies sources of manipulation in the social media and helps to follow fake profiles which spread disinformation. Users can report profiles which advertise specific campaigns, ideas, misinformation and manipulations. Although it does not delete the fake profiles, the users can see whether the profile is registered as fake. The Trolless community has around 800 members so far in the Chrome browser but they plan to add this extension to Mozilla and Safari browsers too.

The shortage of groups and initiatives which fight lies in Moldova is mainly caused by the lack of resources. As all active initiatives right now depend on financial support from abroad, they can only operate when the funding is guaranteed. The creators of these projects have noticed that the government of Moldova is not particularly interested in their work and often ignore their findings.

The text is part of the project which is aimed at strengthening democracy and civil society as well as fostering closer ties with the EU Eastern Partnership countries (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia) by spreading independent information with the help of contemporary solutions. The project is implemented by Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis. It is financed as part of Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs‘ Development Cooperation and Democracy Promotion Programme.

Categories: World News