Disinfo News: Moldova ‘Most Exposed’ to Russian Propaganda in Eastern Europe

StopFake.org - Mon, 08/06/2018 - 12:04

Moldova — Lithuanian flag colors projected on the Parliament building in Chisinau to honour Lithuania’s centenary

By Polygraph

Tucked in between Ukraine and Romania, near the Black Sea, the Republic of Moldova continues to push away from its Soviet past. Most of what is now Moldovan territory endured Russian rule or influence since the Ottoman Empire ceded it in 1812. And now, with the Russian government headed by Vladimir Putin intent on restoring the power of the bygone Soviet era, Moldova finds itself facing an invasion of Russian-produced news and propaganda.

Moldova – May 1st Socialist demonstration, a march in Chișinău on the traditional Soviet Day of Labor

While the 2014 Moldovan census showed that more than 82 percent of the population was Moldovan or Romanian-language speakers, it is clear many Moldovans still speak and read Russian fluently. And the Metropolis of Chișinău of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the country’s most trusted institution, is still considered to be oriented toward Russia.

The Ukrainian Prism think tank, in a study titled “Resistance to Disinformation in Central and Eastern Europe,” concluded that Moldova is the country in the region most exposed to Russian propaganda.

Consider a recent story by the Russian media outlet Mir 24 that seemed to brag about the Russian role in “handing over” newly-manufactured ambulances to Moldova. The TV story and online article only gets to the cost close to the end, and never states affirmatively that Moldova paid the bill.

“The news story says that it is about assistance from Russia, although these funds have been transferred from the budget of Moldova,” Petru Macovei, executive director of the Independent Press Association of Moldova, told Polygraph.info. “So information was presented in a manipulative manner. This news distorts the truth. Correct and professional news should not leave questions.”

In fact, the money was transferred from the budget of Moldova. This becomes clear on the official sites of the Moldovan Ministry of Health and State News Agency.

Moldovan health officials announce a new fleet of ambulances purchased from Russia

Veronika Víchová, a coordinator and analyst with the Kremlin Watch Program European Values Think-Tank in Prague, told Polygraph.info the ambulance story sounds like a fairly common method of Kremlin disinformation.

“Manipulative or an outright wrong translation to cause misconception is a tool which is often used,” Vichova said. “In the Czech cases, we see this phenomenon often on Czech language websites which tend to translate English or Russian language articles into Czech.”

The manufacturing of ambulances perhaps does not carry great geopolitical heft, and Macovei says it does seem harmless compared to the greater disinformation landscape in Moldova.

“There is a division of the Russian news agency Sputnik in Moldova that shows how much Russia is helping us and how much negativity we get from the European Union or West,” Macovei pointed out.

On August 2, 2018, Sputnik’s Russian-language Web site for Moldova carried stories critical of NATO, the United Nations and the EU, as well as a Russian government narrative relating to the murder of three Russian journalists investigating a government-linked private military company operating in the Central African Republic.

Headlines on Sputnik’s Web site aimed at Moldovan audiences. August 2, 2018

“This is a whole recipe for exploiting a sensitive topic for each country,” Macovei said, adding that Russian narratives which “inflate small problems to large problems” are similar across Eastern Europe, though they vary somewhat country to country.

“The Lithuanian theme is the problem with the Russian language, in Moldova – the antagonism between Russian-speaking and Romanian-speaking population. Partial dependence of the Moldovan economy on Russia is maximally exploited,” he added.

According to a study titled “Resistance to Disinformation in Central and Eastern Europe,” 10 out of 15 top television channels that are most watched are mostly Russian language broadcasts and programs.

The Audit Bureau of Circulation Moldova (BATI) October 2017 ratings, as displayed in the report: Resistance to Disinformation in Central and Eastern Europe

The Audit Bureau of Circulation Moldova (BATI) October 2017 ratings, cited by the disinformation study, show that four out of the 10 most viewed news online websites in Moldova, including the most popular site, Point.md, promote pro-Kremlin positions. Furthermore, another top site is Ria.ru, which is Russian with a reach of over six percent of the Moldovan population. The Web site of the Russian government-run, Sputnik.md, has both Russian and Romanian versions. Most of these sites were found to promote fake or manipulative news, according to local fact-checking initiatives.

The Vkurse.md Website, is seen to often promote the Party of Socialists and Moldovan President Igor Dodon. Local experts on disinformation accuse the agency of producing misleading and fake news favorable to Russia.

MOLDOVA — The President of Moldova Igor Dodon gestures at a press conference about the activity results for the first 18-month of his presidential mandate, at State Residence in Chisinau, Moldova, July 3, 2018

In January, it published an article headlined: “The first project of the NATO Liaison Office in Chisinau became known: Moldova is being prepared for a hybrid war with Russia.” The piece claimed that the U.S. will conduct a research on possible Moldovan involvement in “hybrid war.”

On the Stopfals.md site, which is dedicated to uncovering fake news in Moldova, NATO responded: “The NATO Liaison Office in the Republic of Moldova did not receive any request or question about the information in this article, which is false. Our mission is to facilitate political dialogue and practical cooperation between NATO and the Republic of Moldova.”

The NATO office said it supports Moldova’s internal reforms and modernization.

Moldova — People ride a tricycle motorbike in Dobrogea village next to Balti, Moldova on October 10, 2013

Also in January, Russian TV host Irada Zeynalova traveled to Moldova and produced a TV report broadcast on the NTV’s “Itogi nedeli” (a weekly TV news report), about so-called anti-Russian officials in Moldova. It claimed that the lagging economy had driven most Moldovans to work abroad. Media outlet NewsMaker.md found several factual errors in this report.

Zeynalova said that 80 percent of agricultural exports from Moldova were sold to Russia. In fact, the National Bureau of Statistics reported in 2016 that Moldova exported food and live animals worth a total of $498.5 million. Of that, the EU accounted for $ 292.9 million, while the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States accounted for $98.9 million.

Newsmaker.md said Zeynalova cited only left-wing Moldovan politicians and experts, who tend to be supportive of Russia.

Speaking about migration, Zeynalova claimed that with a population of three million people in Moldova, only one million live in the country permanently.

According to the Center for Demographic Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Moldova, the resident population of the country is about 2.9 million people.

“We made this conclusion on the basis of comparing different data, excluding migrants who have not been in the country for more than a year,” said the center’s head, Olga Gagauz. According to official data, about 300,000 Moldovan migrants work abroad.

Moldova – Moldovan PM Pavel Filip in Parliament, Chisinau

Zeynalova said that the Moldovan parliament recently passed a law banning “Russian news channels.” In fact, the law bans programs with analytical, military or political content produced in countries that have not ratified the European Convention on Trans-frontier Television.

President Dodon wrote on Facebook that in his opinion this law represents “an outright violation of the freedom of citizens of the Republic of Moldova in obtaining information.”

“I will not yield to the regime,” he added.

Moldova – Moldovan Parliament Speaker Andrian Candu, Chisinau

Dodon twice refused to promulgate this “anti-propaganda” law, so it was done by Speaker of the Parliament Andrian Candu.

By Polygraph

This article was reported and written by a Moldovan journalist who is on a fellowship at the Voice of America and Polygraph.info.

Categories: World News

Fake: Crimeans who Left the Peninsula after Russian Annexation Returning Home

StopFake.org - Fri, 08/03/2018 - 11:02

Crimeans, who massively left the peninsula after it was annexed by Russia in 2014, are beginning to return home, announced Grigoriy Ioffe, the chairman of Crimea’s Public Chamber, an organization that monitors the interests of ordinary citizens in the legislative process. Ukraina.ru, Rambler and other propagandist sites quickly disseminated Ioffe’s claims.

Скриншот сайта Ukraina. ru

Website screenshot Rambler

Prior to the Russian occupation of Crimea, Ioffe held high position’s in the region’s parliament. He claims that Crimeans’ rights are being grossly violated in mainland Ukraine, Crimeans are increasingly disillusioned with Ukraine’s “nationalistic leadership” and are therefore returning to the peninsula in large numbers.

“Even those who were very critical of events in 2014 are reviewing their ideological positions. They are beginning to understand the full extent of rights violations by nationalist Ukraine. We can’t stand aside as these are former fellow Crimeans. They are disenchanted and are returning to Crimea.” Ioffe said.

Ioffe’s statement contradicts even official Russian data on returning Crimeans. According to the Crimean State Statistics Office the number of Crimea residents that left the peninsula in 2018 has quadrupled compared to 2017. Crimeans leaving Crimea are not bound for neighboring Russia but for CIS countries, this is how Russian authorities refer to Ukraine.

Responding to StopFake’s inquiry about migration between Ukraine and Crimea, Ukraine’s State Border Service spokesman Andriy Demchenko said that passenger traffic from the mainland is decreasing from year to year. According to the latest data, this year’s June border crossings decreased by 6% compared to the same period last year.

Late summer sees increased traffic to mainland Ukraine from Crimea with students arriving for university entrance interviews. “It is completely wrong to talk about growing numbers of people returning to Crimea” Demchenko emphasized.

According to Ministry of Social Policy data, immediately after the Russian annexation some 33 thousand Crimean residents left the peninsula. Kyiv officially considers these people internally displaced persons.

Ukrainian Institute for the Future analyst Ihar Tyshkevich told StopFake he suspects at least 200 thousand people left Crimea after Russia annexed the territory. If people are returning, they are very few, he says, as people are aware how repressive and dangerous Crimea is for Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars. Certainly the 30 thousand who are receiving Ukrainian pensions and social aid are not going to return to Crimea, and even more so those who left Crimea for EU countries, Tyshkevich pointed out.

Categories: World News

Reporting the Topic by Avoiding the Topic

StopFake.org - Fri, 08/03/2018 - 06:45

By EU vs Disinfo

That press freedom is limited in Russia comes as no surprise. The situation is described as ‘difficult’ by Reporters without Borders in their annual World Press Freedom Index for 2018, putting the country at a lowly number 148 in the ranking of 180 countries. We have also returned to the topic on several occasions; we have described the special role of the ‘temnik’ – an instruction from the authorities, which is disseminated in Russian media; we have also reported the crackdown on Russian mediawho were not willing to adhere to the instructions of the authorities; and finally we have described how the situation limits the role of journalists trying to do their job in the country.

So what happens in such a system when the authorities make an unpopular decision? Meduza highlighted an interesting example earlier in July when Russian lawmakers voted to adopt the first reading of the law raising the retirement age (from 60 to 65 for men by 2028, and from 55 to 63 for women by 2034). The measures were announced on the World Cup opening day, in an attempt to bury the news according to the Financial Times. Away from the World Cup host cities — where protests were banned — demonstrators rallied in 45 towns against the announcement. The Moscow Times reported in June that local authorities had seized copies of a local newspaper covering the proposal, an action allegedly also accompanied with a strong recommendation that local newspaper editors avoid covering the topic.

But once the vote had taken place, Kremlin-loyal outlets successfully avoided the controversial part about the decision – the fact that the retirement age would be raised. Instead, as reported by Meduza, they spoke only of a new law, bill, reform and development in their headlines, thus diverting attention from the issue causing public criticism of the Russian government.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

Russian Journalists Murdered in Africa — What Russia Does Not Say

StopFake.org - Fri, 08/03/2018 - 01:43

Central African Republic soldiers, trained by Russian instructors in Bangui

By Polygraph

Maria Zakharova

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson

“There is nothing sensational about the presence of Russian instructors in the CAR, no one was hiding anything. Back in March, a response by the Deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman on the subject of the work of Russian military and civilian instructors in the CAR was published.”

Source: Maria Zakharova’s Facebook account

MISLEADING

What is in question is the involvement of Russian mercenaries, not official Russian instructors, in the Central African Republic.

On July 31, three Russian journalists, Orkhan Jemal, Kirill Radchenko, and Alexander Rastorguev, were killed in the Central African Republican (CAR) when their vehicle was ambushed by unknown assailants near the town of Sibut. Russian opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky later confirmed that the three journalists had been working for one of his projects, the Center for Investigation, on a probe into the activities of a so-called “private military company” called Wagner or the Wagner Group. That company has previously been involved in the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

RUSSIA — Flowers brought to the Central House of Journalists in memory of three Russian journalists killed in the Central African Republic, Moscow, July 31, 2018

On August 1, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova posted a statement on Facebook in which she dismissed talk about a “PMC” (private military company) and claimed that her ministry had been completely open about Russian government involvement in the CAR. She linked to a Foreign Ministry statement that mentioned Russian military and civilian cooperation with the country’s government. However, neither Zakharova nor the statement she provided mentions anything about Wagner or private military companies. In fact, private military companies are still not legal under Russian law, so the confirmed involvement of Wagner in the CAR raises many questions.

Zakharova’s Facebook post also contained a questionable claim about the slain journalists.

“What they were actually doing in the CAR, what were their goals and objectives were, remains an open question,” she wrote.

However, that question had already been answered the day before, both by the journalists’ colleagues and their employer: they were investigating the presence and activity of Wagner in CAR.

This past February, Wagner became the focus of international media attention when mercenaries it employed were soundly defeated in a clash with U.S. military forces and their local allies in Syria. In February, Polygraph.info conducted a fact check of Zakharova’s denial of Russian involvement in the battle, pointing to a series of such denials. Polygraph.info also tackled Russian denials about Wagner’s apparent ties to the Russian military.

Russia in Africa, and PMC’s

If Russia is suppling CAR with small arms and instructors, as Zakharova’s statement indicates, the Russian government is also clear about its own aims. Following an October meeting between Foreign Minster Sergey Lavrov and President Faustin-Archange Touadera of the Central Africa Republic, the foreign ministry stated the leaders reaffirmed “practical cooperation” in a number of areas, pointing to “mineral resource exploration.”

1/? Yesterday, 3 Russian journalists were killed in the Central African Republic. We believe they could have been investigating Russian mercenaries’ ties with anti-government rebels which go against Russia’s official position of supporting CAR’s government https://t.co/1y9JDOnN6X

— CIT (en) (@CITeam_en) August 1, 2018

A thread from the Conflict Intelligence Team about the killing and Russian involvement in the Central African Republic

As to Wagner’s presence, cooperation between the government and private military companies “represents the new Russian ‘hybrid approach,’” Kiril Avramov of the University of Texas Intelligence Studies Project tells Polygraph.info. He describes the “hybrid model, “where one does not know where the state ends and private interest begins.”

TV Anchor Susan Li, Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, and Central African Republic President Faustin Archange Touadera (L-R) at the opening of the 2018 St Petersburg International Economic Forum

Sergey Sukhankin, a fellow at the Jamestown Foundation in Washington, DC says another company, PMC Patriot, is also said to be operating in the area.

“The Wagner group is said to be in charge of military operations, while the Patriot group is in charge of protection of VIPs,” Sukhanin tells Polygraph.info, though he says the Russian government will not acknowledge their presence because they’re “illegal” under Russian law and operating as a mercenary is a crime.

While no motive for the killing has been confirmed and the area where the journalists’ vehicle was ambushed is known for armed attacks along the highway, the killing has aroused suspicion due to Wagner’s involvement in the region. In April, a Russian reporter who had covered the company’s involvement in Syria died after allegedly falling off his apartment balcony or out of his window. A number of other opposition and media figures have also died in this same manner over the years. Some of these deaths have been ruled accidental, though they were not criminally investigated.

“We have had cases in which suspects managed to jump out of completely sealed, barred windows, and even cases in which the suspects suffered multiple lethal injuries from falling out of first floor windows,” a Russian investigative journalist said on the topic. That comment was made by Orkhan Jemal, one of the three journalists killed in CAR on July 31.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

NATO isn’t planning to break up Russia

StopFake.org - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 13:47

LITHUANIA — U.S. soldiers take part in a massive amphibious landing during the Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), a NATO maritime-focused military multinational exercise, in Nemirseta on the Baltic sea, June 4, 2018

By Polygraph

RT

Russian state-owned media outlet

“The head of the Russian Lower House Committee for Eurasian Integration says the recent proposal to split Russia into several parts, voiced by a Latvian MP, is proof of NATO’s hostile plans.”

Source: RT website

FALSE

There was no such “proposal.”

On July 30, Russian state-owned media outlet RT published an article with the headline “Call to break up Russia by Latvian MP Proof of NATO’s Hostile Plans – Senior Lawmaker.” The “senior lawmaker” in question is Russian State Duma Deputy Leonid Kalashnikov, a member of the conservative Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF). He is also head of the State Duma Committee on Eurasian Integration.

“We should not be shy, we should offer tough resistance,” RT quotes the politician as saying,“resistance not even to such statements, but rather the danger of our country being split up that arises after them.”

In reality, there has been no NATO proposal to invade or break up Russia. Instead there was just a tweet by a member of the Latvian parliament, Aleksandrs Kiršteins, who belongs to a party that is described as right-wing and nationalist, but clearly in the country’s minority. While the RT article mentions the tweet, the Russian state publication did not embed or link to it.

Tikai, kad Krievija sadalīsies mazākās valstīs, atbilstoši etniskajam sastāvam, ar rāvienu izbeigsies militārie konflikti un Eiropā iestāsies ilgstošs miera periods! https://t.co/oQE90OZ7MY

— Aleksandrs Kiršteins (@akirstei) July 28, 2018

“Only when Russia splits into smaller countries, in line with ethnic composition, will military conflicts end, and a lasting period of peace will exist in Europe,” the tweet reads in Latvian.

Kiršteins is a member of a minority Latvian political party, the National Alliance of Latvia, nationalist and anti-immigration and only a small part of the country’s ruling coalition.The party holds several seats in the Saeima, the Latvian Parliament. Kiršteins, a member of the Saeima, seems to have no connection to NATO.

Latvia — Aleksandrs Kiršteins – deputy of Latvia Parliament

​A July 30, 2018 aggregate of polls in Latvia by a non-profit project based in Vienna puts the National Alliance’s support from the country’s electorate at 11%. While his tweet suggests a split of Russia along ethnic lines, even Kiršteins does not suggest Russia be divided by military force.

And NATO has made it clear in the past that while it condemns Russia’s aggressive actions toward Ukraine beginning in 2014, it still seeks to maintain dialogue and stability with Russia.

“The Alliance does not seek confrontation and poses no threat to Russia,” an official statement from the NATO summit in Warsaw in 2016 reads.

“But we cannot and will not compromise on the principles on which our Alliance and security in Europe and North America rest. NATO will continue to be transparent, predictable and resolute,” the communique continued.

NATO has also post a page it says corrects myths about its relationship with Russia, pointing out that the alliance has extended invitations for cooperation to Russia that have never been offered to any other non-NATO member.

Latvia — Saeima in Riga

Even though Kiršteins’ tweet suggests an unrealistic division of Russia, even he does not propose that any division of Russia should be carried out by military action of NATO or any outside force. In general, his tweet appears to be his own opinion and cannot seriously be called a “proposal,” and certainly not one being considered by NATO.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

#PackOfLies: Back to the Stalinist past

StopFake.org - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 11:34

On the 30th of June, the President of Russia Vladimir Putin signed a decree by which he renamed a few military units and divisions after cities and other places in Ukraine, Belarus, Germany, Poland, and Romania. According to the „Radio Free Europe“, this step embodies the aspiration “to preserve the glorious military and historic traditions, and to nurture loyalty to the fatherland and military duty among the military personnel.” This move, however, means going back to the imperialist policy of Stalinist times when the mentioned divisions not only fought Nazi Germany during WW2, but also occupied the territories of the free countries during the interwar period.

According to the decree, the Russian army now has divisions named after Lviv, Zhytomyr, Nizhyn, Warsaw, Berlin, Vitebsk, Slonim, and Transylvania. Earlier it was Stalin who gave those names to the army divisions. In this way he was creating the mythology of WW2 and the role of the Red Army in it.

Having in mind the present Kremlin’s policy in Ukraine when the territorial unity of a sovereign country is in danger, these steps of V. Putin should be seen not only as a cheap chauvinistic trick of public relations to accumulate capital from the bloody imperialistic past, but also as a serious threat to the neighbours.

This publication is part of a project 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. #PackOfLies represents the position of Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis only.

Categories: World News

“Known but not discussed”: Low-income people aren’t getting quality news and information. What can the industry do about it?

StopFake.org - Tue, 07/31/2018 - 18:01

Image of a payday loan storefront in Virginia by Taber Andrew Bain used under a Creative commons license

“There is no Wirecutter for low-income individuals.” Fiona Morgan and Jay Hamilton talk about their research into information ecosystems and the media market.

By Christine Schmidt, for NiemanLab

The search engine results that a woman who has served time in jail and is from a low-income community will see, while hunting for jobs, will be vastly different than those found by a graduating college senior who is on LinkedIn.

While the senior might get reputable, actual jobs, the woman encounters predatory job “application” sites that sell her data to for-profit schools and other organizations trying to take advantage of her. That sad example is a byproduct of our market and information setup. “It all goes back to: The information created depends on the value I get from changing your mind,” said Jay Hamilton, the head of Stanford’s journalism program, an economist, and author of All the News That’s Fit to Sell, among other titles.

The woman in this situation is real — Fiona Morgan met her at a community computer lab in Chicago. Morgan, a consultant on information ecosystems and the former director of Free Press’s community organizing News Voices program, and Hamilton studied the information systems and media models surrounding low-income communities and recently published their findings in the International Journal of Communication.

“It’s important to think about the information environment that would help her succeed — and what is the information environment that she’s actually in, and who’s profiting from that,” Morgan said.

I spoke with Morgan and Hamilton about their research and how it applies to our changing media industry. We got into the weeds of the journalism market, but they also shared examples of media organizations that are excelling at involving and providing low-income individuals with useful information, what role nonprofit newsrooms play in today’s environment, and how journalists could work with partners outside of the industry (barbershops?) to report and share information.

Here’s their article, and here are the chats Josh Benton did with Hamilton in the early days of Nieman Lab about All the News That’s Fit to Sell (if you really want a trip down memory lane). Finally, here is our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity:

CHRISTINE SCHMIDT: You’re each coming from a different perspective. What interested you about addressing this topic, and why now? It’s not something particularly new to the journalism industry, right?

FIONA MORGAN: Jay and I have been working on this topic for several years, researching the information needs of low-income communities and the information lives of people who are lower income. It’s a known but not discussed issue for journalists, that you know there are always stories that aren’t getting told. Also known but not discussed is that certain audiences get more news about their community than other communities do. That is only getting worse as the capacity of news organizations constricts and we see more layoffs; we see more attention to luxury products and stuff that’s easier and cheaper to produce, like crime coverage. It’s harder to put the resources into doing really good storytelling that really gets at the people that are most in need and most affected by problems.What I love about Jay’s approach as an economist is that he is looking really systematically at why this happens and the economic forces underlying it. What really got started for me was reading his book All the News That’s Fit to Sell. He put out this framework for thinking about the different kinds of demands for information. Jay, you can correct me if I get this wrong, but there are four different kinds of information:

  • There’s entertainment demand, stuff that’s fun and entertaining;
  • Then there’s producer-demand, so stuff you need to know for your job; so Nieman Lab, for instance, I need to keep up with to be aware of what’s going on in journalism. If I were a welder, I would need to know about welding things and training and jobs.
  • And third, there’s consumer demand: I might want to buy another phone, what should I get? There’s a lot of consumer info out there.
  • Then there’s voter demand and info, which is how I make demands as a voter and a citizen. In my mind, that’s also sort of broadly about civic information. How do I know what I need to know to be a civically minded person and have a positive impact on my democracy?

And so in All the News That’s Fit to Sell, Jay talks about how this market turns information into news, what news gets produced and why, and why some audiences are more valuable than others. In this research we’ve done together on poor information, we’re looking at the market failure of civic and voter demand in general. If I want producer information, I’m willing to pay for it because, by paying for it, I’m able to earn more money. If you’re producing more information that is having an impact broadly on society, it’s having all these spillover benefits by helping keep people safe and keeping an eye on local officials so they’re not robbing the public coffers. The benefits of that are dispersed over people who may not even know about the story, but they still benefit. It makes it hard for those producing the news to ever get the investment they put into financing what it took to report that story. I’m going to let Jay explain the rest — I’m explaining the economics while there’s an economist here sitting in.

JAY HAMILTON: Fiona is right on point. For me, I got interested in this when I was in the convenience store in a low-income area and buying a soda. At the checkout counter there was a newspaper called The Slammer that printed the mugshots of people who had been arrested in Durham County, North Carolina. I started to look through it and there was advertising for bail bondsmen, advertising for a book on how to play the lottery that took advantage of people’s misperceptions of what the lottery does. I began to think about what the information lives would be like for people in that community.Fiona did a great job describing the four information demands people have. We have those demands in our lives as entertainers, workers, consumers, or voters, but if you think about why your needs get served — why somebody would supply you with information — there are really five incentives:

  • One is subscription, paying them to provide you with that information.
  • One is advertising, selling your attention to somebody else.
  • One is I want your vote and that’s partisan.
  • One is nonprofit, I want to change how you think about the world, and
  • One is I just like to talk and that’s expression.

If you think about each of those, they’re biased against the information needs of low-income individuals. Low-income people have less to spend on subscriptions, so they spend less, according to government data on news and information. They’re less likely, for many products, to be the marginal consumer — the person whose mind you’re trying to sway. They’re less likely to vote and there’s evidence we cite in the paper — that means people rationally don’t target them with political information, if they’re not going to turn out to vote or are a lower priority. They have lower subscriptions to broadband. When you’re looking at all the free content on the web created by social media and expression, their voices are less likely to be heard. There’s a bias in terms of the incentive to create content for them. That was one of the key points of our work.

People talk about a digital divide in terms of technology, but it’s also there in terms of the content. We discovered [low-income people] are the target consumers for some products like payday lending, mortgages, for-profit online education. Sometimes that means people will create deceptive information targeted at them, like the woman at the community center in Chicago.

SCHMIDT: I really liked what you said, Fiona, about how it’s a conversation everyone knows about but nobody is really talking about, the fact that the news organizations don’t often serve low-income information needs. Considering your work with News Voices and Jay’s work as an economist in this area, how do you both see the changes and structures of the business models and missions of news organizations affecting this?

MORGAN: We’re seeing more consolidation [of newspapers], which is making a lot of these problems worse. Simultaneously there is a rise in nonprofit news, experimenting with all kinds of models. There are people doing exciting projects that are grant-funded, but thinking about it structurally. What’s going to have to happen, in order for this to work, is that people start to see journalism as a fundamental core necessity for society. Or they’ll have to pay directly for information, but then the question becomes, how does this work for people who don’t have much money?The Slammer newspaper, which just is mugshots, is not a free paper. It’s $1. The poorest people are willing to pay cash money for something that, for whatever reason, has value to them. Jay and I have both talked to people at the convenience store about why they look at it, and some folks say, “I haven’t seen my friend in a while and I wanted to know what happened to him. I wanted to know if he got picked up.” Which is so sad!

But there are also a lot of people experimenting with cooperative models — employee-owned, but also consumer cooperative. I think that, in the same way we give money to community initiatives of all kind, we can start to see journalism that actually serves directly to people, instead of journalism that serves advertisers who may or may not be interested in low-income people. That’s a hopeful direction.

HAMILTON: One way I think about this is that newspapers used to offer a bundle of information, things that helped you in your life as a consumer or a worker. Today there’s a lot of focus, understandably, on people with high incomes and high education. But there is no Wirecutter of low-income individuals. Wirecutter is great because it contributes money to The New York Times and so The New York Times tells stories that hold national and international institutions accountable, but Wirecutter earns money through people clicking through and buying the products. If you look at consumer lives of low-income individuals, some of the most hopeful things I see are that government agencies and nonprofits focused on serving the poor are starting to think about how to use information in a targeted way.

Fiona and I are hopeful about three things: bundling, behavioral economics, and big data — although there should be an asterisk by big data in which we say maybe “moderate data,” but that’s not alliterative. With behavioral econ, there’s a design firm, Civilla, that just helped the state of Michigan redesign its forms using design thinking and behavioral econ ideas that basically simplify the red tape that gets you through to the benefits. In terms of bundling, people have been experimenting with bringing together two or three information demands in one physical location. So if you want to reach low-income communities with health screenings, do that through barbershops or salons or churches. Since the 1990s, we’ve seen that if you want people to register to vote, do it when they’re getting a license. There’s a great group called Benefit Bank that helps you get multiple services, SNAP [food stamps] etc., all in one sitting. The newspaper used to incorporate that idea of bundling, but now you have to replicate it in physical locations or, with Benefit Bank, online.

Behavioral econ is figuring out how people make decisions. And with big data, Sarah Alvarez’s Outlier Media is a really interesting experiment of trying to figure out how to get the info to low-income people when they’re deciding to rent a place, finding out what taxes or utility bills might be associated with that. We also talk about in our article about the expanding college opportunity program, which basically gets high-scoring students in low-income families, sends them information and vouchers that allow them to apply to more schools, and actually gives them info about what the net cost of attending college would be.

All of those things — bundling, behavioral econ, and big data — basically take people’s circumstances as a given and try to get them the information that will help them make better decisions, from the perspective of their own lives.

MORGAN: We know that low-income people are less likely to use the internet and they’re less likely to have a computer at home. But just about everyone has a cell phone now and text messaging is one of the most accessible ways to reach people, like Sarah does with Outlier Media using GroundSource. A lot of the engagement work that I’ve been involved in with the engagement community is work to meet people where they are, having forums and using posters and flyers to reach people. They’re being really creative about where people are, how do they already get information, and figuring out what they need by talking to them. They’re taking this advertising-funded mediator out of the middle and really thinking about how to serve people directly.

SCHMIDT: You mention nonprofits a bit in your paper:

The nonprofit incentive to change how an individual thinks about the world, however, does lead to direct targeting of information toward people with low incomes….Changing the choices of low-income individuals becomes part of the public goods nonprofits seek to provide.

I’m assuming you weren’t referring to nonprofit newsrooms there, but does the growth of nonprofit newsrooms tie in with your research?

MORGAN: In the paper, we were thinking of nonprofits really broadly. Of course, there’s a very specific slice of the Venn diagram overlap between nonprofit organizations and newsrooms. What I see as being really hopeful is that there are a lot of nonprofit newsrooms trying to do things differently. They don’t think about a news product that is familiar. They’re thinking about how to reach out of the community, like City Bureau. They’re trying to reach specific neighborhoods in Chicago that they think aren’t getting covered enough. They’re reaching out to people who already live in the community and have the social network of people they know, already navigating the systems of what the issues are and what it takes to live there. They’re bringing that knowledge to the journalism.

At the same time, there’s an education piece of helping nonprofits understand what journalists do. As Jay said, the nonprofits that know they want to reach this targeted population, know these are the problems they want to solve and the knots they want to untie, realize that journalism is not just useful but essential to doing that. The trick, for the journalism piece, is how to set up the level of independence and transparency you need to be effective.

With News Voices, I’ve been reaching out to organizations and individuals who aren’t journalists and aren’t going to be, but they can be really thoughtful about contributing to the ecosystem of information in their community. If you’re a nonprofit putting out research, you’re actually kind of a news source for people. We’re thinking about the role that information plays in all nonprofit work, and realizing that journalism is an essential part of what that communication needs to look like. The market’s not going to pay for it.

SCHMIDT: I also wanted to ask about how the shrinkage of the local news sector plays into this. You mention news deserts in the paper, but do you think local news outlets are more likely to provide the kind of information that low-income individuals need?

HAMILTON: It’s that combination of geography — low-income people tend to live in areas with lower overall median income — and fixed cost. It takes money to tell an original story. Think about the radius of a story being the number of people it affects and the value of eyeballs, either as subscribers or as targets of advertisers. Poor communities have fewer people willing to pay for the info or be targeted by advertisers. That means stories about their institutions are more likely to go untold. That means there are not people holding the institutions accountable there.

MORGAN: The LA Times broke the story about the Bell city officials paying themselves exorbitant salaries and refusing to turn over public records about what those salaries were. The reporting the LA Times did was terrific, but it wouldn’t have been necessary if there had been a reporter covering Bell on a regular basis and showing up to city council meetings. But the LA Times, like a lot of metro papers, pulled back its coverage of the metro and had to make some hard decisions about which communities it was going to cover. Bell is one of the poorest communities in LA County and majority Latino. I went out and talked to some citizens who had been trying to get the attention of the papers. I think it was partly due to their agitation that it did get the attention of the newspaper, and also their agitation once the stories came out that made those stories have an impact. As every reporter who has done accountability reporting knows, you can write whatever, but if people don’t respond then nothing happens. The impact has to be a matter of public response.

The asset in Bell was curious, engaged people who really cared about their community. Once the information was out there, they spread it and kept the pressure up. In places where [citizens] are used to not having news coverage or don’t have the kind of civic engagement that Bell had, it’s worse, because they don’t know they can ask for the records, or once the information comes out, there’s no infrastructure to fight for it.

HAMILTON: There’s some really interesting research that shows that once there are enough Latinos in a market that a Spanish-language local TV station starts broadcasting, voting among Latinos goes up by five to 10 percentage points. Once the community stories are told on TV in Spanish, more people turn out to vote in elections.

MORGAN: It’s really important for journalists to think about the impact of their work. How does the work they do interact with the people they’re serving? I’m loving the work people are doing with the Trusting News project and all the folks trying to help journalists articulate the work they do. Kyle Pope wrote for Columbia Journalism Review about how we have to stop making it a story about journalists — about poor us, losing our jobs — and we have to start making it about what we are going to lose when we lose the reporting. What is the effect going to be on the local communities?

SCHMIDT Where do you think news and information for lower-income individuals could go in the future?

MORGAN There are a lot of really exciting projects out there, like Outlier Media and City Bureau. There’s a project called Media Seeds in Ohio where Michelle Ferrier is doing a lot of engagement and design thinking work to try to prototype the kind of information that would best serve rural communities in southeastern Ohio.

I think funders are beginning to think more about funding journalism and news and information; hopefully, they will start to see the value in this. And it’s always exciting to see people experimenting with engagement. That’s the world I’ve been in for the past three years. That’s a good way to communicate with the public about what they need, what really serves them, and how they’re willing to participate to make it happen — whether that means financial contributions, time, or some other kind of participation.

HAMILTON: If you go back to the five incentives — subscription, advertising, nonprofit, partisan, and expression — what we’re really seeing, with the collapse of local news markets, is a collapse of advertising revenue in local news. In some larger national markets you see more dependence on subscription, like with The New York Times. I’m optimistic that we’re seeing re-weighting of the incentives away from advertising. If you think about the examples we talked about with bundling, behavioral econ, and big data, what government and nonprofits are trying to do is figure out how to reach people with low incomes with information when they’re making decisions. That’s not journalism, but it is supporting the function of journalism, if you think about journalism as providing you with information to help you with your job or about your life as a consumer or to divert you, to help you make a voting decision.This re-weighting of incentive means we’re seeing a lot of experimentation by nonprofits, some by government agencies, and one that we haven’t talked about yet: If you look at the 2018 elections, there are people who have focused a lot on turnout. That’s driving them to think about how to go through the distribution of income in the U.S. and reach out to people who haven’t been participating. It’s driven by politics, but it’s a hopeful way to get more people participating. It’s not subscribing to a newspaper, but ultimately, if you care about newspapers as an instrumental good and as an input into a functioning democracy, then seeing political groups trying to get people engaged in discussion is also a hopeful sign.

By Christine Schmidt, for NiemanLab

Categories: World News

Figure of the Week: 25

StopFake.org - Tue, 07/31/2018 - 05:38

By EU vs Disinfo

Over the last couple of years, online disinformation has risen on the international scene as an ever-growing problem. At the forefront of the battle for the value of facts are journalists, upholding one of the most important pillars of a free and democratic society: free and independent media.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and their partners launched an initiative earlier this year aiming at combatting disinformation: #JournalismTrustInitiative. RSF also recently published a new report called “Online Harassment of Journalists – Attack of the Trolls”, on the topic of online attacks against journalists, in which they present 25 recommendations directed at governments, international institutions, online platforms, media organizations and advertisers.

In the report, the modus operandi of the press freedom predators who orchestrate their online attacks against journalists are defined in three stages by RSF:

  1. Disinformation: journalistic content on social networks is drowned in a flood of fake news and pro-government content;
  2. Amplification: the impact of pro-government content is artificially enhanced by commentators who are paid by the government to post messages on social networks or by bots, computer programs that automatically generate posts;
  3. Intimidation: journalists are personally targeted, insulted and threatened, in order to discredit them and reduce them to silence.

The report also includes a tutorial for journalists on how to deal with troll armies, and gives an overview of the authoritarian regimes that make use of them. RSF also concludes that female journalists are more likely than male journalists to be targeted with harassment, and the harassment targeting women is often degrading and contains threats of a sexual nature. The 25 recommendations are formulated with the aim of addressing these new digital threats.

To governments:

  1. Strengthen laws authorizing prosecution for online harassment of journalists
  2. Strengthen the responsibility of online platforms in regard to content shared on their networks
  3. Implement systems for alert and rapid intervention in harassment cases
  4. Guarantee that the rules for fighting hateful content are applied fairly and consistently
  5. Implement recovery procedures for cyber harassment victims (e.g financial restitution, medical and psychological aid, relocation assistance)
  6. Prohibit resorting to online influence and destabilization agents – trolls – in order to manipulate public opinion and harass journalists
  7. At the United Nations, governments must urge creation of a Special Representative for the Safety of Journalists
  8. European governments must sign and ratify the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercriminality
  9. Governments must encourage multidisciplinary international research on censorship techniques
  10. Governments must strengthen digital education
  11. All public policies concerning online violence must take into account its gender-specific nature

To international organizations:

  1. Continue to urge governments to uphold the principle that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression”
  2. Contribute to research on methods of online harassment
  3. International and regional human rights protective systems must include online harassment in their monitoring of abuses against journalists

To online platforms:

  1. Online platforms must be transparent concerning their rules for moderating online content
  2. They must ensure that these rules are not turned into methods to silence journalists
  3. Establish a victim-centred emergency alert system for journalists who are targeted by online threats and attacks
  4. Cooperate actively with law enforcement authorities in investigations of cyber violence against journalists, with measures including public release of the perpetrators’ names
  5. Combat online harassment campaigns that are orchestrated by troll factories or bots
  6. Develop communication and awareness campaigns concerning online violence

To media organizations:

  1. Acknowledge the threat and learn to anticipate attacks
  2. Encourage the creation of networks to exchange best practices by developing a holistic approach
  3. Make online harassment of journalists a major issue

To advertisers:

  1. Refuse to advertise on sites that participate in dissemination of hate content
  2. Develop ethics codes and best practices for online advertising

Read the full report here.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

UK Parliament: 5 recommendations to tackle disinformation and fake news

StopFake.org - Mon, 07/30/2018 - 20:19

By UK Parliament Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee

We are facing a democratic crisis founded on manipulation of personal data and micro-targeting, MPs warn.

In 2017, 11 MPs from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, from different political parties, launched an inquiry into Fake Newsin response to the increasing spread of stories with uncertain origin or accuracy.

The DCMS Committee’s report attempts to expose the secretive world of these tech companies, and the high level international links between companies, their subsidiaries, and individuals.

“We are facing nothing less than a crisis in our democracy – based on the systematic manipulation of data to support the relentless targeting of citizens, without their consent, by campaigns of disinformation and messages of hate.

We heard evidence of coordinated campaigns by Russian agencies to influence how people vote in elections around the world. This includes running adverts through Facebook during elections in other countries and in breach of their laws. Facebook failed to spot this at the time, and it was only discovered after repeated requests were made for them to look for evidence of this activity. Users were unaware that they were being targeted by political adverts from Russia, because they were made to look like they came from their own country, and there was no information available at all about the true identity of the advertiser.”

– Damian Collins MP, Chair, DCMS Committee

The Committee is today setting out a series of major reforms to begin to tackle this problem, and invites responses to its proposals.

1) Make tech companies responsible and liable

We recommend that a new category of tech company is formulated, which tightens tech companies’ liabilities, and which is not necessarily either a ‘platform’ or a ‘publisher’. We anticipate that the Government will put forward these proposals in a White Paper later this year.

This process should establish clear legal liability for the tech companies to act against harmful and illegal content on their platforms. Tech companies are not passive platforms on which users input content; they reward what is most engaging, because engagement is part of their business model and their growth strategy. They have profited greatly by using this model. This manipulation of the sites by tech companies must be made more transparent.

Just as the finances of companies are audited and scrutinised, the same type of auditing and scrutinising should be carried out on the non-financial aspects of technology companies, including their security mechanisms and algorithms, to ensure they are operating responsibly.

2) Impose a levy on tech companies to fund education and the Information Commissioner’s Office

We recommend that the Government put forward proposals in its forthcoming White Paper for an educational levy to be raised by social media companies, to finance a comprehensive media educational framework.

We suggest there could be a levy on tech companies operating in the UK, to help pay for the expanded work of the ICO, similar to the way in which the banking sector pays for the upkeep of the Financial Conduct Authority.

3) Change the rules on political campaigning

There should be a public register for political advertising, requiring all political advertising work to be listed for public display so that, even if work is not requiring regulation, it is accountable and transparent for all to see. There should be a ban on micro-targeted political advertising to Facebook ‘lookalike audiences’ where users have requested not to receive political adverts.

The Electoral Commission should come forward with proposals for more stringent requirements for major donors to demonstrate the source of their donations.

We support the Electoral Commission’s suggestion that all electronic campaigning should have easily accessible digital imprint requirements, including information on the publishing organisation and who is legally responsible for the spending, so that it is obvious, at a glance, who has sponsored that campaigning material, thereby bringing all online adverts and messages into line with physically published leaflets, circulars and advertisements.

The Electoral Commission should also establish a code for advertising through social media during election periods, giving consideration to whether such activity should be restricted during the regulated period, to political organisations or campaigns that have registered with the Commission.

The Government should investigate ways in which to enforce transparency requirements on tech companies, to ensure that paid-for political advertising data on social media platforms, particularly in relation to political adverts, are publicly accessible, clear and easily searchable, and identify the source, explaining who uploaded it, who sponsored it, and its country of origin.

Tech companies must also address the issue of shell corporations and other professional attempts to hide identity in advert purchasing, especially around election advertising. There should be full disclosure of targeting used as part of advert transparency.

4) Audit fake accounts through the Competition and Markets Authority

If companies like Facebook and Twitter fail to act against fake accounts, and properly account for the estimated total of fake accounts on their sites at any one time, this could not only damage the user experience, but potentially defraud advertisers who could be buying target audiences on the basis that the user profiles are connected to real people.

We ask the Competition and Markets Authority to consider conducting an audit of the operation of the advertising market on social media.

5) Establish a Digital Atlantic Charter

The UK Government should consider establishing a digital Atlantic Charter as a new mechanism to reassure users that their digital rights are guaranteed. This innovation would demonstrate the UK’s commitment to protecting and supporting users, and establish a formal basis for collaboration with the US on this issue.

The Charter would be voluntary, but would be underpinned by a framework setting out clearly the respective legal obligations in signatory countries. This would help ensure alignment, if not in law, then in what users can expect in terms of liability and protections.

“The secretive world of the tech giants”

The Committee’s report outlines disturbing evidence of the activities undertaken by companies in various political campaigns dating from around 2010, including the use of hacking, of disinformation, and of voter suppression through alleged violence and intimidation.

One company, SCL, used behavioural micro-targeting to support their campaign messages ahead of USA mid-term elections in 2014, later claiming that in just one of their campaigns the 1.5 million advertising impressions they generated created a 30% uplift in voter turnout (against the predicted turnout) for the targeted groups.

The Committee also found evidence that another company, AIQ, used tools that “scrape” user profile data from LinkedIn. The tool acts similarly to online human behaviour, searching LinkedIn user profiles, and obtaining their contacts and all accompanying information, such as users’ place of work, location and job title.

The inquiry heard of the links between SCL and Christian Kalin of Henley & Partners and their involvement in election campaigns. Mr Kalin ran “citizenship-by-investment” programmes, which involved the selling of countries’ passports to investors, usually from countries that face travel restrictions.

“In this inquiry we have pulled back the curtain on the secretive world of the tech giants, which haveacted irresponsibly with the vast quantities of data they collect from their users. Despite concerns being raised, companies like Facebook made it easy for developers to scrape user data and to deploy it in other campaigns without their knowledge or consent.

Throughout our inquiry these companies have tried to frustrate scrutiny and obfuscate in their answers. The light of transparency must be allowed to shine on their operations and they must be made responsible, and liable, for the way in which harmful and misleading content is shared on their sites.

I believe what we have discovered so far is the tip of the iceberg. There needs to be far greater analysis done to expose the way advertising and fake accounts are being used on social media to target people with disinformation during election periods. The ever-increasing sophistication of these campaigns, which will soon be helped by developments in augmented reality technology, make this an urgent necessity.

Data crimes are real crimes, with real victims.
This is a watershed moment in terms of people realising they themselves are the product, not just the user of a free service. Their rights over their data must be protected.

– Damian Collins MP, Chair

The Committee’s final report, which will also include further conclusions based on the interrogation of data and other evidence, is expected before the end of the year.

By UK Parliament Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee

The Government has two months to respond. To read in more depth and detail about our recommendations, read our interim report (PDF) in full or see more on our website.

If you’re interested in the work of the Committee, find out more about their other inquiries.

Categories: World News

Disinformation and ‘fake news’: Interim Report

StopFake.org - Mon, 07/30/2018 - 17:59

By authority of the House of Commons of UK Parliament

Fifth Report of Session 2017–19
Report, together with formal minutes relating
to the report
Ordered by the House of Commons
to be printed 24 July 2018

Read the whole report here.

There are many potential threats to our democracy and our values. One such threat arises from what has been coined ‘fake news’, created for profit or other gain, disseminated through state-sponsored programmes, or spread through the deliberate distortion of facts, by groups with a particular agenda, including the desire to affect political elections.

Such has been the impact of this agenda, the focus of our inquiry moved from understanding the phenomenon of ‘fake news’, distributed largely through social media, to issues concerning the very future of democracy. Arguably, more invasive than obviously false information is the relentless targeting of hyper-partisan views, which play to the fears and prejudices of people, in order to influence their voting plans and their behaviour. We are faced with a crisis concerning the use of data, the manipulation of our data, and the targeting of pernicious views. In particular, we heard evidence of Russian state-sponsored attempts to influence elections in the US and the UK through social media, of the efforts of private companies to do the same, and of law-breaking by certain Leave campaign groups in the UK’s EU Referendum in their use of social media.

In this rapidly changing digital world, our existing legal framework is no longer fit for purpose. This is very much an interim Report, following an extensive inquiry. A further, substantive Report will follow in the autumn of 2018. We have highlighted significant concerns, following recent revelations regarding, in particular, political manipulation and set we out areas where urgent action needs to be taken by the Government and other regulatory agencies to build resilience against misinformation and disinformation into our democratic system. Our democracy is at risk, and now is the time to act, to protect our shared values and the integrity of our democratic institutions.

By authority of the House of Commons of UK Parliament

Categories: World News

StopFake #194 [ENG] with Marko Suprun

StopFake.org - Mon, 07/30/2018 - 17:10

Fake: Ukraine troops kill separatist defector. Cholera found in the Azov Sea. President Poroshenko allows lumber smuggling to the EU.

Categories: World News

Figure of the Week: $400 Million

StopFake.org - Mon, 07/30/2018 - 06:30

By EU vs Disinfo

Last week, a series of articles was published in the U.S. media relating to a $400-million donation allegedly made by U.S.-born financier Bill Browder to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election campaign.

The figure was quoted by  Russian President Vladimir Putin himself at a news conference on 16 July following his meeting with Donald Trump in Helsinki. He claimed that Browder’s hedge fund stole the money from Russia through tax evasion.

The Kremlin had “solid reason” to believe U.S. intelligence officers had “guided these transactions,” according to the Russian President, and he offered U.S. investigators to question 12 Russian intelligence officers charged with hacking Democratic computer networks during the U.S. election in exchange for Washington handing Browder over to Russian investigators.

The story appeared in leading U.S. publications including The New York TimesThe AtlanticTimemagazine, and Newsweek, which all quoted Browder as rejecting the claim and insisting he had never made any political donation to Hillary Clinton or any other political candidate.

The New York Times reporter Kenneth P. Vogel said on Twitter that his newspaper had investigated the $400-million allegation and found it “completely without evidence.”

We tried to fact-check PUTIN’s claim that @BillBrowder‘s associates donated $400M in un-taxed Russian $ to @HillaryClinton‘s campaign, but it was so completely without evidence that there were no pants to light on fire, so I hereby deem it “WITHOUT PANTS.” https://t.co/js3XprGK1T

— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) July 16, 2018

Browder, a vocal critic of Putin, himself penned an editorial in Time calling the allegation “ludicrous” and accusing the Russian government of seeking revenge for his crusade against corrupt Russian officials.

The $400-million figure was also relayed by well-known U.S. conspiracy news site Infowars — this time without Browder’s rebuttal.

Instead, Infowars accused Hillary Clinton of being backed by a “Deep State” that allegedly sought to thwart Trump’s election.

The article was republished in several other conspiracy websites.

What Infowars also failed to mention is that one day after the Helsinki news conference, the Russian Prosecutor-General’s office – which is probing Browder for fraud — issued a statement saying it had been asked to correct the figure from $400 million to $400,000 – a sum Browder still denies donating to the Clinton campaign.

Browder, who is based in London and now holds British citizenship, has been in the Kremlin’s crosshairs for years.

The CEO of Hermitage Capital, once the largest investment firm in Russia, fell afoul of the Russian government in 2005 after exposing the details of a vast $230-million corruption scheme involving many high-ranking Russian officials.

Browder was subsequently deported from Russia as a threat to national security and his investment companies were seized.

While investigating the corruption scheme, Hermitage Capital’s tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was detained and imprisoned. He died in prison in 2009, at the age of 37, after what Browder says was torture and ill-treatment in detention.

Browder spearheaded the Magnitsky Act, which imposed U.S. sanctions on Russian officials held responsible for the lawyer’s death. Other countries including BritainEstoniaLithuaniaLatvia, and Canada, have since adopted similar legislation.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

The Russian Military: ‘friendly and open’ or aggressive and dangerous – the evidence

StopFake.org - Mon, 07/30/2018 - 05:20

Medics remove a boy from under the rubble following what local activists said was a Russian strike in the al-Kalasa neighborhood in Syrian city of Aleppo on October 30, 2015

By Polygraph

Sergey Shoigu

Russian Defense Minister

“In such conditions, we demonstrate openness, friendliness and the absence of any sort of aggression against foreign countries.”

Source: RT, July 24, 2018

FALSE

Shoigu’s words are the opposite of the Russian military’s behavior

Speaking to the Russian military collegium on July 24, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu criticized NATO, saying the Western military bloc cannot stand Russia being an independent player in international politics and is trying to prevent this by boosting its military presence in Eastern Europe.

Today #Moscow hosted meeting of #RusMoD Board Session chaired by the General of the Army Sergei #Shoigu to discuss 2012 and 2018 Presidential Decrees following talks in Sochi https://t.co/fChxMBJ61C pic.twitter.com/Lzbwipvdt5

— Минобороны России (@mod_russia) July 24, 2018

In a contrast to NATO’s behavior, Shoigu said, Russia’s military “demonstrates openness, friendliness and the absence of any sort of aggression against foreign countries.” He claimed these qualities were on display during the World Cup, which Russia hosted in mid-July.

In reality, the Russian military stands accused of war crimes in Russia’s own North Caucasus region and in Syria; of provocative, aggressive and dangerous behavior in international airspace and waters; of brutal covert operations around the world, including shooting down the Malaysian passenger jet MH-17, which killed 268 people; the aggressive online operations of its intelligence units in the United States and France, as well as against the World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA; shadowy involvement in the conflicts in eastern Ukraine and Georgia that claimed thousands of civilian victims; and of consistently violating international treatiesand agreements; such as a nuclear disarmament treaty – that Russia says the U.S. is also violating.

Ukraine — An Ukrainian military commander (R) shows a rifle seized from Russian soldiers as General Staff commander Viktor Muzhenko looks on during a news conference in Kyiv, May 18, 2015

We have left off this list the incidents in the United Kingdom involving poisoning by the nerve agent Novichok, because while these have been blamed directly on Russia, they have not been associated specifically with the Russian military.

What the Experts Say

Stephen Blank, a Russia expert and senior fellow at the American Foreign Relations Council told Polygraph.info: “Of course, Shoigu is brazenly lying, as Russia does not accept the sovereignty or territorial integrity of any of the post-Soviet or post-Warsaw Pact states, and its representatives have stated as much and behaved in the same way many times.”

На крымских полигонах начались учения с подразделениями отдельной бригады морской пехоты Черноморского флота с отработкой вопросов огневой подготовки и вождением боевой техникиhttps://t.co/bzFbF83R1r pic.twitter.com/bQXOFrQ59l

— Минобороны России (@mod_russia) July 25, 2018

The Russian Defense Ministry Tweet, above, shows a military drill that began in Crimea on July 25, 2018.

“Russia has committed direct aggression against Georgia and Ukraine and threatened others even with nuclear weapons many times,” Blank said.

Russia, Blank said, is launching a global war to subvert and corrupt governments and socio-economic-media-political institutions across the world, not just in Europe and the U.S. It also sponsors terrorism, whether in Ukraine or in the Middle East, where it supports Hezbollah and Hamas, and provides arms to Iran for arming Hezbollah.

Stephen Blank

Russia also carries out chemical warfare attacks abroad, as the incidents in the UK have shown, and apparently has revived its biological warfare program, Blank contended.

He added that many, if not all of these cases also show that Russia has utter contempt for international treaties and law, as does its violation of arms control treaties, possibly including the New START treaty.

Steven Pifer, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Polygraph.info: “There are numerous examples that contradict the Defense Minister’s statement.”

Ukraine — An elderly man sits in front building destroyed during combat and shelling between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian militants in eastern city of Donetsk, 13, 2014

“Russia is party to several arms control and confidence-building agreements that require transparency regarding military activities, but is in violation of those agreements,” Pifer said.

“For example, Russia has ‘suspended’ its participation in the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty–even though the treaty has no provision for suspension–and does not provide the notifications and other transparency measures required by that agreement; has failed to provide all of the notifications and information required by the Vienna Document on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures; and has limited the access of overflights conducted over Russia under the Open Skies Treaty,” Pifer noted.

He added: “As for the ‘absence of any sort of aggression against foreign countries’, one only has to consider Russia’s military seizure of Crimea in 2014 and its ongoing conflict against Ukraine in the Donbas. NATO only began boosting its military presence on its eastern flank in 2014, as NATO allies became concerned about Russia’s use of military force against Ukraine.”

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

Putin’s post-summit interview lies won’t save Trump

StopFake.org - Fri, 07/27/2018 - 14:45

By Sarah Hurst (@XSovietNews), for StopFake

Basking in the glow of the World Cup final and a humiliation of Donald Trump in Helsinki yesterday, Vladimir Putin sat down for an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News. Pro-Kremlin reporter Dmitri Smirnov tweeted: “Another present for Trump: In Helsinki Vladimir Putin gave an interview to the American channel Fox News, which belongs to the US president.” It doesn’t, but perhaps Smirnov was attempting humour. In fact, Fox had been unusually critical of Trump after the summit, and Wallace asked Putin about issues that Trump himself hadn’t raised, but nevertheless Putin was able to put forward an array of lies and conspiracy theories once again.

Putin repeated a point that he had made during the summit press conference, which doesn’t stand up to the most cursory scrutiny. He claimed that he wouldn’t have collected kompromat on Trump during Miss Universe in Moscow in 2013, referring to the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, where this year there were 500 business leaders, many of greater calibre than Trump was before he became president, according to Putin. “Do you think our special services organised surveillance of each and every one of them? Unlike the US, we don’t do that. We don’t have the resources, the manpower, to spy on everyone,” he said.

Apology at Miss Universe

Putin deliberately ignored the fact that being the organiser of a Miss Universe in Moscow is radically different from being one of hundreds of visitors at an economic forum. At the press conference Putin also claimed that he didn’t even know Trump was in Moscow for Miss Universe. The authors of the book “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump,” Michael Isikoff and David Corn, already reported that Putin’s spokesman Dmitri Peskov called Trump to apologise that Putin couldn’t be there, sent Putin’s close aide Vladimir Kozhin, invited Trump to the Sochi Olympics and sent him a gift. When Isikoff tweeted about this yesterday, Trump associate Rob Goldstone responded, “I know this because I was there!”

Goldstone, a British publicist and music manager, subsequently tweeted on a bright red background: “President Putin just stated that he had no idea Donald Trump was in Moscow in 2013. I know for sure that he did and tell the full story in my soon to be released book… Pop Stars, Pageants & Presidents: How an Email Trumped My Life.” It was Goldstone who emailed Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016 on behalf of pop star and businessman Emin Agalarov to request a meeting between Trump Jr. and lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, which would become the notorious Trump Tower meeting where the Trump team asked the Russians for dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Indictments ignored

On Russian election interference in 2016 Putin was also in full denial mode, asking Wallace, “Do you really believe that someone acting from Russian territory could have influenced the choice of millions of Americans?” When Wallace tried to get Putin to take a copy of Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian GRU officers who hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Putin refused. At the press conference in Helsinki he had pretended that he didn’t even know Mueller’s name, calling him “Miller”. By claiming that he hasn’t read the indictment or other Mueller indictments of people including former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort or guilty pleas by top Trump aides such as former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, Putin can feign innocence – which might impress some, especially Trump himself.

“I’m not the least bit interested,” Putin said of the indictment of the GRU officers. “These are internal US political games. Don’t hold the relationship between Russia and the US hostage to this internal political struggle… And it’s nothing to be proud of for American democracy, because using law enforcement agencies in a political rivalry is inadmissible.” Here Putin must have forgotten about Alexei Navalny being convicted in trials denounced by the European Court of Human Rights and banned from running in the March 2018 presidential election. On July 13 Navalny’s co-defendant Petr Ofitserov died at the age of 43, reportedly after hitting his head “during an epileptic fit or a stroke,” according to Russian media.

Putin claimed that he hadn’t received a single document about election interference. “Now we hear that another two people suffered from that so-called chemical substance they called Novichok. But I’ve never even heard their names, who are those people? What did they suffer from?” he continued. It seems unlikely that Putin would not have heard that the two British people poisoned by Novichok were Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, and that Sturgess died after they both touched the bottle that was used to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March. “What bottle? Who picked it up? Where did they pick it up?” Putin demanded. “Maybe there were other reasons why those people suffered. Maybe they’re inside Great Britain. But no one wants to investigate. It’s just baseless accusations.”

Blaming the West again

When Wallace asked why Putin had changed so much after being elected as a reformer in 2000, Putin responded, “Nothing changed about me. I am the same as I ever was.” As always he blamed the West for changing its behaviour by expanding NATO (Eastern European countries asked to join NATO for protection against Russia), sanctioning Russian officials through the Magnitsky Act (in response to the death of Sergei Magnitsky in prison after torture), and supporting what he calls the “coup” in Ukraine in 2014 (a popular revolution against the corruption of Putin-backed Viktor Yanukovych).

“It wasn’t us who organised an armed coup and the government’s overthrow in violation of the Ukrainian constitution,” Putin said. “It wasn’t us giving out cookies to rebels on city squares. Nothing happened to me. What happened to the West, I’d like to know.” It was, however, Putin who gave asylum to Yanukovych and many of the Berkut riot police who beat and killed protesters during the revolution, and it was Putin who annexed Crimea and invaded Donbas, establishing terrorist-led fake states and killing over 10,000 Ukrainians. It was also Putin who sent a Buk missile system to Donbas which was used to shoot down flight MH17 four years ago today, killing all 298 people on board.

Putin laughed off the annexation of Crimea in the interview, saying, “If this was an annexation, then what is democracy?” At the press conference with Trump he had talked about organising a referendum in Crimea, but his sham referendum overseen by Russian troops without identifying marks was obviously in violation of Ukraine’s constitution, which he claims to care about. Since the annexation the human rights situation on the peninsula has deteriorated severely, with Crimean film director Oleg Sentsov being sent to a Russian prison for 20 years, Crimean Tatars rounded up and arrested regularly, Ukrainian citizens jailed for alleged “sabotage”, and farmer Volodymyr Balukh jailed for several years because he flew a Ukrainian flag on his home.

Whataboutism

Asked why so many of his political enemies end up dead, Putin turned to his trusted whataboutism, responding, “Haven’t presidents been killed in the United States? Was Kennedy killed in Russia or in the United States? What about clashed between police and several ethnic groups? All of us have our own set of domestic problems. Russia’s statehood is maturing and there are some side effects.” Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Popular democratic politician and Ukraine supporter Boris Nemtsov was shot dead in February 2015. Investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in 2006. Today the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia hadn’t adequately investigated Politkovskaya’s murder and ordered it to pay 20,000 euros in compensation to her relatives. It also ruled that Pussy Riot should receive 50,000 euros for a violation of their right to free speech when they were jailed for performing their Punk Prayer in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow in 2012. Yesterday four more Pussy Riot members were jailed for 15 days each for running onto the pitch in police uniforms during the World Cup final.

Putin knows that he has an audience for his lies, and he will continue to repeat them. But the good news is that Trump’s universally-derided performance in Helsinki is likely to harden US opinion against Putin. Even Fox and Republicans are expressing serious concern that Trump is selling out the United States to Russia for his own personal reasons. After the press conference the US Department of Justice announced that it had arrested Maria Butina on a charge of espionage for activities that included trying to influence US politics via the National Rifle Association. The list of indicted Russians is getting longer, and more of Trump’s closest associates almost certainly won’t be far behind. No amount of lying from Putin will ultimately save his American protégé.

By Sarah Hurst (@XSovietNews), for StopFake

Categories: World News

Fake News and Fake Solutions: How Do We Build a Civics of Trust?

StopFake.org - Thu, 07/26/2018 - 05:44

Protesters fly a flag upside down as a signal of distress outside the offices of The Washington Post in Washington D.C. on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017. PHOTO: Ivan Sigal

By Ivan Sigal. for Global Voices

We need to start serious conversations about systemic social challenges, rather than tinkering with their effects

In his recent manifesto, Mark Zuckerberg asserts that the response to our dysfunctional and conflict-ridden politics is to build a stronger global community based on ubiquitous interconnection. We know of course that Facebook stands to profit from this utopian vision, and we should be skeptical of the motives underlying Zuck’s position. But it’s worth taking a second look at the idea of working on underlying economic and political issues in our societies, rather than focusing on the effects of online expression — particularly in the context of the moral panic over “fake news.”

The consternation about fake news from Western journalists, scholars of propaganda, and policymakers has inspired waves of stories and talk-shopsaddressing its growth as a threat to our public discourse, our journalism, and our systems of governance. And we see many attempts to understand, fix, or apportion blame. Yet many of the proposed fixes are deeply problematic because they advocate overly broad and vague restrictions on expression. Solutions that would limit suspected “fake” expression or strongly encourage private intermediaries to restrict some kinds of speech and prioritize or “whitelist” others are particularly troubling.

This week, Germany was the latest country to introduce a plan that would force social media companies to monitor and censor some kinds of online expression. Justice minister Heiko Maas wants to put regulatory pressure on social media companies, and especially Facebook and Twitter, to police expression, asserting that they have failed to do so voluntarily. Draft legislation proposes to fine social media companies up to €50 million for failure to quickly delete hate speech, fake news, and other types of misleading speech.

In this context, we can look to countries that have created regulatory regimes to control online expression — such as China — not as entirely “other”, but perhaps as cautionary examples. When posing solutions to fix fake news, we should be extremely careful not to build our own self-censorship machines.

“Fake” news and the role of states

Many recent false news stories have come from groups not affiliated with states, but examples from Russia, China, Iran and many other countries should remind us that the biggest threat to our public discourse is false information used by and to the advantage of governments. Governments, after all, have the authority to couple shifting narratives of truth to state mechanisms of control. We ought to be especially attuned to states that restrict the “false” expression of their citizens, while at the same time creating misleading narratives and stories about themselves. When states attempt to control narratives, it’s time to start looking for signs of tyranny.

For the past 20 years, we have seen states or their affiliates use Internet-based false news and disinformation as part of broader agendas to shape public opinion for political ends. Well-researched examples include China’s 50 Cent Party, Russia’s troll factories, and astroturfing bot engines contracted by the U.S. government, all of which are designed to flood Internet forums and social media with falsities and distractions.

At the same time, some states have taken steps to regulate, restrict and even criminalize “false” stories produced by citizens and journalists as a punitive method of controlling expression. In Bahrain, China, Egypt, Turkey, Russia, Venezuela, Iran and elsewhere social media users have been arrested and prosecuted for sharing information deemed by governments to be false or misinformed. New regulations in China forbid the use of “unverified facts distributed via social media platforms” and prohibit websites “from quoting from unnamed or fake news sources and fabricating news based on hearsay, guesswork or imagination.”

recent declaration issued by a group of intergovernmental organizations, including UN Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression David Kaye, discusses these regulatory efforts from the perspective of international law and norms. They emphasize that international human rights doctrine explicitly protects expression that may differ from or counter governmental positions, even when it is factually inaccurate. Regulatory and technical approaches to reduce fake news should, they argue, continue to safeguard the diversity and abundance of speech. They write:

the human right to impart information and ideas is not limited to “correct” statements…the right also protects information and ideas that may shock, offend and disturb, and that prohibitions on disinformation may violate international human rights standards, while, at the same time, this does not justify the dissemination of knowingly or recklessly false statements by official or State actors…

What’s the problem, exactly?

The real-life consequences of fake news are unclear. A recent study by the MIT/Harvard research project Media Cloud, (with which Global Voices is affiliated), led by Yochai Benkler and Ethan Zuckerman, examines the effects of right-wing information sources in the U.S. It suggests that rather than wringing our hands over “fake news”, we should focus on disinformation networks that are insulated from mainstream public conversations. Benkler and his colleagues challenge the idea that “the internet as a technology is what fragments public discourse and polarizes opinions” and instead argue that “human choices and political campaigning, not one company’s algorithm” are the more likely factor to influence the construction and dissemination of disinformation.

Nevertheless, projects seeking to control fake news are running full steam ahead. These efforts have the potential to affect what information is easily available to publics, and if we aren’t careful, could even diminish our rights to expression. Approaches tend to fall into three broad categories:

  • Fix online discourse by nudging technologies that control or censor some categories of speech
  • Fix the public by making us better at distinguishing fact from fallacy
  • Fix journalism, generally with massive cash transfers from the technology sector

Notably, these approaches all focus on mitigating effects rather than confronting the underlying economic or technical incentives in the structure of media, or the broader social, economic and political incentives that motivate speech.

Fix online discourse

In seeking to build systems to manage false newstechnology companies will end up creating systems to monitor and police speech. We will quickly find that they need to use ever-more granular, vigilant and therefore continuously updated semantic analysis in order to find and restrict expression.

These proposed solutions to fake news would be in part technological, based on AI and natural language processing. They will automate the search for and flagging of certain terms, word associations, and linguistic formulations. But language is more malleable than algorithm, and we will find that people will invent alternative terms and locutions to express their ends.

The slipperiness of language could cause the hunt for “fake” or hurtful speech to become an end in itself. We have already seen this in the hunt for “toxic” language in a recent project called Perspective, made by Google’s Jigsaw, and other efforts will surely follow.

Companies are likely to supplement their automated processes with human monitoring — from social media platform users flagging suspect content to contractor armies interpreting those flags and implementing restrictions. Added to this, perhaps, will be ombudspeople, feedback loops, legal processes, and policy controls upon the censors. Those systems are already in place to deal with terrorism, extreme hate speech, extreme violence, child pornography, and nudity and sexual arousal. They can be further refined and expanded to police other types of expression.

Proposed solutions in this vein mostly fail to acknowledge that the technological incentives that encourage fake news are the same as the forces that currently finance the digital media industry — that is, advertising technology masquerading as editorial content.

The internet theorist Doc Searls calls this “adtech”, emphasizing that it is a form of direct marketing or spamming. The rise of fake news is driven in part by organizations seeking revenues or political influence by creating sensational and misleading stories packaged for highly polarized audiences. Producers of this content benefit from a system already designed to segmentand mobilize audiences for commercial ends. That system includes the monitoring of consumer habits, targeted advertising, direct marketing and the creation of editorial products appealing to specific consumer segments. These forces coalesce in a dance of editorial and advertising incentives that leads to further polarization and segmentation.

Fix the public

The next approach — that we fix ourselves — relies on the Victorian idea that our media systems would work if only people behaved in ways expected of them by the builders of systems. Media literacy campaigns, public education, fact-checking, calling out and shaming tactics, media diets, whitelists of approved media: these solutions require that we blame ourselves for failing to curb our appetites. It is not wrong to suggest that we are susceptible to the allure of the media’s endorphin-injection strategy to hook us on the sensational and trivial, or that education is important for a healthy civics. To focus blame primarily on individuals, however, is victim-blaming of a sort.

Fix journalism

The third approach — devoting more resources to better journalism, is an example of the journalism community jumping on the current moment to reassert their expertise and value. While a more proactive, better-resourced media is definitely vital for the long-term health of our civic life, conversations about journalism need to start with the trust deficit many journalistic outfits have accumulated over the past decades. That deficit exists precisely because of ever-more sensational and facile reporting, news as entertainment, and the corporate drive to maximise profits over the interests of audiences and readers.

Given that the business model of the liberal, capitalist media is primarily to sell eyeballs to advertisers, they should not be surprised to find those of us being sold becoming wise to the approach. And while efforts to strengthen journalism and public trust in the media are important and much-needed, they will not make fake news go away.

So what are we really talking about?

The technological and the human-based approaches to controlling inaccurate online speech proposed to date for the most part do not address the underlying social, political or communal causes of hateful or false expression. Instead, they seek to restrict behaviors and control effects, and they rely on the good offices of our technology intermediaries for that service. They do not ask us to look more closely at the social and political construction of our communities. They do not examine and propose solutions to address hate, discrimination and bias in our societies, in issues such as income disparity, urban planning, educational opportunity, or, in fact, our structures of governance.

Frustratingly, we have seen these approaches before, in efforts to reduce online “extremism”, and also with dubious results. Countering violent extremism (CVE) projects suffer from similar definitional flaws about the nature of the problem, but that doesn’t stop governments from creating misguided responses. For examples, look to the many ‘counter-narrative’ projects such as “Welcome to ISIS Land” funded by the U.S. State Department. These projects, supported by governmentsinternational organizations, and companies, seek an array of technical, communications and policy-based approaches to controlling extremism.

David Kaye, in an earlier joint declaration on CVE, notes the “fail[ure] to provide definitions for key terms, such as ‘extremism’ or ‘radicalization’. “In the absence of a clear definition, these terms can be used to restrict a wide range of lawful expression,” but still inflict collateral damage, with pervasive surveillance and tracking that triggers the self-censor in all of us, resulting in the reduction of civic participation and dialogue.

How do we begin to tackle the larger challenges, those beyond simple technological fixes or self-blame? There are no easy solutions for the economic and social inequities that create divisions, and the technological and economic incentives that underpin our current information ecosystem are deeply entrenched. Yet we need to find a way to start serious conversations about these systemic challenges, rather than tinkering with their effects or simply assigning responsibility to the newest players on the field.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the internet, has urged that we reform the systems and business models we have created to fund our online lives. He points, for example, to the use of personal data by companies as the driver for the creation of surveillance societies, which exerts chilling effects on free expression. He suggests seeking alternatives to the concentration of attention and power in the hands of a small number of social media companies that derive profit from showing us content that is “surprising, shocking, or designed to appeal to our biases.” He’s concerned by the use of these same tactics in political advertising, and its effect on our systems of electoral politics.

Confronting our social and economic inequities is even harder. It is the challenge of our time to find the language to conduct honest and frank debate about how we construct our economies and our states, how we apportion benefits, and which values guide us. Building civic communities that are rooted in trust, both online and off, is the ongoing and vital work necessary for public conversations about our collective future.

It is no small irony that the communications systems that we built to support such debate are imperilled, both by those who would explode the social norms of civic discourse for their ideological ends, and through resultant attempts to control extreme or misleading expression. It is easy to find fault with the technologies that facilitate our collective civic life. It is much more difficult to look at our civic life as a whole and determine whether and how it may be failing.

By Ivan Sigal. for Global Voices

Ivan Sigal is Executive Director of Global Voices.

Categories: World News

The Trump-Putin summit was a win for Russia. Why aren’t they celebrating?

StopFake.org - Thu, 07/26/2018 - 00:31

By Sarah Manney, July 25, 2018

After last weekend’s summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, widely held in the West as a blow to American global leadership but hailed by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov as “better than super,”[1] one would expect the Kremlin to be “having caviar,” in the words for American Senator Bob Corker.[2] Indeed, presenters on Russian state television seemed as bewildered as their American counterparts with Trump’s “very bizarre” obsequiousness.[3] From such comments, some Western pundits assumed that the Russian state-run media must be having a field day after the summit, while in fact, self-congratulation has been the exception. Although some pieces in RT, Kommersant, TASS and other Russian-language news outlets emphasized parity between Trump and Putin, this hardly amounts to declaring the two leaders “BFFs,” let alone the U.S. and Russia “allies.”[4]

To the contrary, Russian coverage of the summit displayed a degree pessimism unusual even for the land of Dostoevsky, ranging from cynicism to outright animosity towards the U.S. The vast majority of headlines in Russian media in the week before and after the summit fell under one of three meta-narratives: first, Trump actually talked tough on Putin; second, the summit didn’t change anything; third, the liberal ‘establishment’ is in hysterics over the very idea of improving U.S.-Russia relations. These deliberately confrontational narratives hint at what diplomats dealing with Russia have been saying for years: Putin doesn’t actually want good relations with the United States.

Narrative #1: Trump confronted Putin on Russian election interference

Before the dust had settled on Trump’s weak behaviour in the days following the summit, Russian media articles picked up on Trump’s few negative statements about Russia to suggest that the American president had in fact stood up to Putin. RT featured an article titled “Trump said he agreed with the intelligence report on “Russia’s interference” in the US elections,”[5] while another linked to an article from Fox News titled, “I’m not for Russia.”[6] Curiously, one headline edited in Trump’s correction from ‘would’ to ‘wouldn’t’ into the original quote about Russian interference to make the original statement sound more confrontational: “’No collusion, but I don’t see any reason it wouldn’t be Russia.”[7] TASS also ran an article proclaiming that “Trump says he would hold Putin responsible for alleged interference.”[8] A lot of Americans would be relieved to hear this, because it seemed to many that he refused to do exactly that.

RT (Russian) headline reading, “Trump stated that sanctions against Russia will stay in place.” Screenshot taken on 25 July, 2018 at 4:03pm EET. This certainly doesn’t look like a leader Russia considers its friend.[9]

f it had wanted to, pro-Kremlin media could have easily looked past Trump’s tepid to non-existent criticism of election meddling given the volume of attention which has already been given the issue in the two years since the Intelligence Community’s seminal report. That they have dragged the meddling narrative on to this extent suggests either that Putin derives a reputational benefit from being cast as the “ ever-victorious master strategist,”[10] or the issue is being used as a wedge between the countries, emphasizing Russia’s victimization (or both.) This could also explain why it was Putin who introduced the theme of election meddling in his opening speech to the press conference,[11] and why Russian media has had to insist that Trump does in fact disagree with Putin on Crimea, contrary to Western fears.[12]

Narrative #2: The summit changed nothing.

Before the conference, many articles echoed previous statements[13] by Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton that “the very fact of the meeting is a positive event”[14] urging low expectations on both sides. For instance, RT contributor Stephen Cohen alleged that the meeting was doomed from the start because of the Mueller investigation in the U.S. was “crippling Trump’s presidential duty to cope with the gravest international threats” while Kremlin hardliners dismissed Putin’s “illusion” of being able to negotiate with the West. Others traced the original sin further back, to the expansion of NATO which “gambled” relations in the last decade leaving Trump “powerless” to change the state of affairs. Afterwards, the tone ranged from nonchalance to defeatism: “In fact, it was quite a harmless encounter, which changed little,” explained one RT editorial;[15] “No meetings will help,” another analyst moaned.[16] Any positive outcomes from the summit must be discounted to account for the “extreme fragility and instability of Trump’s power;”[17] he is an “alien (chuzhoi) against everyone.”[18]

RT (English) headline reading “Putin-Trump summit: Not Munich, Pearl Harbor or Yalta, just Helsinki.” Screenshot taken on 25 July, 2018 at 4:11pm EET.[19]

Narrative #3: The Western establishment is hysterical at the thought of merely talking to Russia

The effort to dismiss any historical significance attached to the contemporary Helsinki summit folds nicely into the third Russian media narrative: that the West has erupted into “hysterics” at Trump’s innocent attempts to defuse tensions with Russia. Before the conference, articles portrayed uncertainty among U.S. and allied policymakers about the agenda of the meeting to suggest a conspiracy against the mere “prospect of the presidents of the US and Russia getting together.”[20] Headlines reacted in mock surprise: “Apocalyptic reaction,”[21] “Summit of Betrayal,”[22] “Fantasies and absurdity.”[23] Labelling opponents as paranoid, hysterical or otherwise mentally unstable is a time-tested Soviet tactic which has also been used to cast doubt on the Skripal poisonings.[24] Pundits theorized about the potential explanations behind the rabid reaction, including a “Deep State” obsessed with demonizing Vladimir Putin, “collusion” between the State Department and Congress to block Trump’s outreach, and “defense industry lobbyists” pumping up a chimerical threat for profit.

Above and beyond these narratives, one must also note the dog that didn’t bark: the lack of attention to substantive issues such as sanctions, Crimea, Nord Stream II or Syria both before and after the summit. This is particularly perplexing given the ample opportunity “black belt” negotiator Putin had to extract some sort of concession from Trump in their two-hour private chat. Yet, despite the Russian Embassy in the United States’ tweet that the military is “ready for the practical implementation of agreements”[25] from Helsinki, and Lavrov’s teaser that the two leaders “will tell you everything soon,”[26] not a single deliverable has followed.

Sorry Trump, Putin’s just not that into you

The only conversation to which we are privy is that concerning the exchange of American activist and businessman Bill Browder and former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul for interviews with GRU agents, which Putin (although seemingly not Trump) must have understood would fuel outrage[27] in all corners of the American government. Threatening to interrogate a former diplomat on patently absurd charges is not what you do to launch a new era of cooperation and friendship. Similarly, Russia’s vocal, acerbic reaction to the indictment of suspected Russian spy Maria Butina in the United States suggests, at the very least, their lack of attempt to minimize confrontational issues for the sake of cooperation with the U.S. Indeed, #FreeMariaButina stories quickly drowned out coverage of Helsinki on the front pages of many news sites, one point taking the top spot in the Helsinki section of TASS’ website. Thus, the Kremlin’s unexpected dismissal of a second meeting at Trump’s invitation might not be designed to help Trump’s domestic reputation[28] so much as Putin’s.

“Putin-Trump Meeting in Helsinki” section of TASS’ English-language website. Screenshot from July 19, 2018 at 2:38pm EET

The theory that the Kremlin does not see a benefit in truly befriending America lines up with the sudden reversal that architects of the Reset policy experienced following Putin’s return to office in 2012. When Russians took to the streets to protest his ‘re-election,’ at the same time as Arabs toppled their dictators in the Middle East, Putin abandoned the cooperation which had characterized Medvedev’s term and blamed the CIA for trying to foment revolution.[29] It is not clear that fortress Russia can let down its drawbridges to a country so often portrayed as enemy #1. If not America, whom else can Putin blame for Russia’s draining coffers, dying soldiers, inflating prices and diminishing life expectancy? Once the promise of sanctions relief was torpedoed by firm Congressional guarantees, and while Ukrainian sovereignty over Crimea remains widely recognized in the West, there is little substantively that Russia can demand from America. Yet rhetorically, the United States plays a vital role as the stage upon which the Russian media enacts Surkovian fantasies to keep its population insulated and paranoid. As we saw in Helsinki, the Kremlin seems to know precisely which strings to pull to get America to play its role with vigor.

[1] http://tass.com/politics/1013439

[2] https://edition.cnn.com/2018/07/16/politics/bob-corker-trump-putin/

[3] https://www.esquire.com/uk/latest-news/a22429702/even-russian-state-tv-thought-trumps-press-conference-with-putin-looked-suspicious/

[4] https://www.vox.com/2018/7/16/17576938/trump-putin-meeting-propaganda .

[5] https://russian.rt.com/world/news/537404-tramp-vmeshatelstvo-razvedka

[6] https://russian.rt.com/inotv/2018-07-18/Tramp-ya-ne-za-Rossiyu

[7] https://www.rt.com/usa/433536-no-collusion-trump-helsinki/

[8] http://tass.com/world/1013922

[9] https://russian.rt.com/world/news/537408-sankcii-ssha-tramp-rossiya

[10] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/23/world/europe/russia-vladimir-putin-liberals.html

[11] https://www.vox.com/2018/7/16/17576956/transcript-putin-trump-russia-helsinki-press-conference

[12] http://tass.ru/politika/5379600 “Президент США Дональд Трамп в ходе саммита в Хельсинки сказал Владимиру Путину, что, по его мнению, Крым является частью Украины.”

[13] ““Frankly having this meeting roughly a year and a half into the administration is a key fact”” http://video.foxnews.com/v/5804059411001/?#sp=show-clips

[14] Helsinki and after: “Сам факт встречи — уже большое позитивное событие международной жизни”

[15] https://www.rt.com/op-ed/433481-putin-trump-summit-helsinki/

[16] https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3688476

[17]  https://russian.rt.com/opinion/536956-shamir-tramp-ssha-es-nato

[18] https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3689080

[19] https://www.rt.com/op-ed/433481-putin-trump-summit-helsinki/

[20] https://www.rt.com/op-ed/430558-trump-putin-summit-cold-war/

[21] https://www.rt.com/shows/crosstalk/433555-trump-putin-summit-reaction/

[22] https://russian.rt.com/opinion/537355-benediktov-reakciy-vstrecha-tramp-putin

[23] https://russian.rt.com/world/video/536961-vstrecha-putina-i-trampa-zapadnye-smi?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

[24] https://www.rt.com/uk/431847-uk-rt-propaganda-free-speech/

[25] https://twitter.com/RusEmbUSA/status/1019329670217691136

[26] http://tass.com/politics/1013439

[27] http://tass.com/politics/1013439

[28] http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/kremlin-deflects-trump-request-for-second-summit-in-dc.html

[29] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/06/books/review/michael-mcfaul-from-cold-war-to-hot-peace.html

Categories: World News

Russia tries everything to blacken reputation of White Helmets

StopFake.org - Wed, 07/25/2018 - 16:18

By Sarah Hurst (@XSovietNews), for StopFake

Russia escalated its long-running hate campaign against the White Helmets Syrian rescue group in response to the evacuation over the weekend of 422 volunteers and their family members to Jordan via the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. About 300 more have been unable to evacuate due to the fighting in Syria. The UK, Canada and Germany have offered to resettle those who do manage to escape. Russia appears to support the Assad regime’s view that the evacuation was a “criminal operation.”

Russian diplomatic Twitter accounts and English-language websites bashed the White Helmets ferociously when the evacuation became known. Russia has continuously accused the rescuers of being jihadis and of staging chemical weapons attacks, and these themes were repeated in the latest propaganda surge. “Yesterday #442 White_Helmets militants and their family members were evaquated [sic] from South-West #Syria,” Russia’s embassy in Israel tweeted on July 23. “At least there is one positive consequence,” it continued. “A chance that White Helmets will use chlorine in order to stage a chemical provocation in South-West Syria has decreased.”

Sputnik ran an article with the headline “Militant Commanders Flee With White Helmets During Syrian ‘Evacuation’ – Reports” on its website, quoting pro-Assad outlet Al-Masdar News as claiming that at least four militant commanders were evacuated with the White Helmets. Russia considers everyone who fights against Assad to be terrorists.

Denouncing Western support

The official statement of Russia’s Foreign Ministry about the evacuation does its best to discredit the White Helmets, calling them “pseudo-humanitarians”, and continuing: “It is well known that it was the White Helmets who were implicated in the most odious provocations during the Syrian conflict. They acted exclusively in areas controlled by Islamic radicals and concocted outright fakes, which were then used as a pretext to level accusations at the Syrian authorities.” The Foreign Ministry accuses the White Helmets of shooting propaganda videos, and concludes, “It is symbolic that the White Helmets chose to flee to Syria with foreign intervention, thus revealing who they really are and demonstrating their hypocrisy to the entire world. As the saying goes, a guilty conscience gives itself away, and these operators clearly showed whose orders they were following and who was funding them.”

In fact, the White Helmets’ heroism has been recognised by many international organisations. The Netflix documentary “The White Helmets” won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short in 2017. The White Helmets were nominated for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize by 133 organisations, including Christian Aid, Doctors of the World UK, the Eastern European Development Institute and Islamic Relief UK. Individuals who supported their nomination included celebrities Bear Grylls, Ben Affleck, Damon Albarn, Dave Eggers, Juliet Stevenson and Justin Timberlake. The White Helmets didn’t win the prize, but did receive the Right Livelihood Award of 315,000 euros in September 2016 and the Good Housekeeping Women of the Year Award in October 2017. In their acceptance speech the group said that they had saved over 99,000 lives in Syria.

Inciting hatred and fear

In all its claims about the White Helmets being “fake”, Russia has only managed to point to one fake video, which the group has already apologised for. In November 2016 there was an internet craze called the Mannequin Challenge in which people posed motionless on a video with music playing in the background.

The White Helmets tried to promote themselves by staging a Mannequin Challenge with an actor playing a victim in the rubble whom they were rescuing. When criticised, they admitted the stunt was a bad idea. Yet on July 24 the Russian embassy in the UK tweeted a picture of the Mannequin Challenge (without explaining what it is), stamped with the word “Fake” in red.

RT quoted a selection of the usual pro-Russian shills in an article titled “’They may be jihadists but they’re our jihadists’: White Helmets’ UK resettlement policy attacked.” The quote about jihadists was from a tweet by former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, who constantly supports the Kremlin. Murray criticised the British government’s hypocrisy in offering asylum to the White Helmets but not to interpreters who worked for the British military in Afghanistan or Iraq. The point is valid, but there is no discernible sinister motive behind the offer to the White Helmets – it was more a spur of the moment decision in an emergency, and no guarantees have been made as to how many White Helmets will eventually end up in the UK.

RT also quoted a tweet from one of its favourite Assad-supporting bloggers, Vanessa Beeley, who wrote, “What’s next for the #WhiteHelmets, an OBE, keys to the City of London, honorary degrees at Birmingham University? Advisory role at London Fire Brigade?” Her sarcasm is nonsensical, since most countries would be grateful for the White Helmets’ rescue skills and experience.

Corbyn connection

Another tweet in the article came from Dr. Marcus Papadopoulos, editor of an outlet called Politics First, who wrote, “Resettling members of the White Helmets in the UK is akin to allowing murderers and other hardened criminals to freely walk the streets of British towns and cities.” On his Twitter profile Papadopoulos describes himself as “Expert on Russia/USSR and Former Yugoslavia.” In March 2017 he wrote an article for RT titled “The US plan for Macedonia: Keep Serbia down and Russia out.” In July last year he attracted national media headlines in the UK when he was photographed at a pizza restaurant in London with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. The Telegraph’s headline was: “Jeremy Corbyn pictured enjoying pizza with controversial pro-Assad campaigner who denied genocide in Srebrenica.” Papadopoulos tweeted that he hoped Corbyn would become Britain’s next prime minister.

RT included a tweet from another pro-Corbyn account in its article, Pablo Miller’s Vest (@WarmongerHodges), which has 9,830 followers and says in its profile, “Far from a bunch of ‘loony lefties’, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn represent the voice of common sense.” The account’s tweet said, “So the government have agreed to allow White Helmets to settle in the UK, despite many independent journalists and former UK ambassadors insisting they are made up of jihadi terrorists. What could possibly go wrong?” The account devotes a large amount of its time to denying that Jeremy Corbyn and supporters are anti-Semitic and attacking Israel.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted on July 23, “Why do the Syrian and Russian government (and trolls) hate the White Helmet rescuers so much? Because they are front-line witnesses to the Putin-Assad war-crime strategy of targeting civilians and civilian institutions in opposition-held areas.” This is a great summary of the situation. The question of why some Western commentators are so vitriolic towards the White Helmets and sympathetic towards Putin and Assad still remains to be answered.

By Sarah Hurst (@XSovietNews), for StopFake

Categories: World News

Fake: Poroshenko Allows Lumber Smuggling to EU

StopFake.org - Wed, 07/25/2018 - 14:21

“Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko authorizes lumber smuggling to EU countries” declared a July 23 headline in the pro-Kremlin internet site Ukraina.ru. Having vetoed a bill designed to protect Ukraine’s forests from logging, Poroshenko is supporting the illegal export of valuable lumber, Ukraina.ru claims. In a further distortion of reality, Ukraina.ru calls the veto a “smuggling permit” and alleges that Ukraine’s Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman vowed to save the country’s forests from Poroshenko.

Website screenshot Ukraina.ru

Both claims are complete fakes. President Poroshenko did veto a bill on illegal lumber smuggling. However the bill was returned to parliament with proposals from the presidential office. The President’s press service explained that Poroshenko supports the bill in general, but the original version had loopholes that contradicted WTO rules and Ukraine’s Free Trade Agreement with the EU and created possibilities for lobbying schemes.

Cкриншот Украина.ру

The vetoed bill banned the export of firewood for eight years. Firewood, which featured in the vetoed legislation, is not considered valuable lumber, explains Volodymyr Bondar, the deputy director the Ukraine’s State Forestry Agency and thus its export should not be criminalized.

Официальный сайт Госагентства лесных ресурсов Украины

In a Facebook post Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze pointed out that the President’s amendments are designed to stop the corrupt schemes in the wood export industry, from which many politicians benefit.

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Українські популісти пробили чергове дно. Огидно від реакції критиків Президента на його вето з пропозиціями на закон №…

Posted by Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze on Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Prime Minister Groysman confirmed that Ukraine was cracking down on lumber smuggling. Posting on Facebook Groysman said all lumber businesses in the country would be reviewed and an audit would be conducted to determine the losses from the illegal export of commercial timber.

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Контрабандисти варварськи знищують українські ліси

Контрабандисти варварськи знищують українські ліси. Прекрасну деревину вивозять як дрова. Зібрав представників МінАПК, Нацполіції, ДФС, Держаудитслужби, "Укрзалізниці", щоб скоординувати дії всіх відповідальних відомств та розібратись з цим безладом. Об’єднаними зусиллями проведемо аудит всіх лісогосподарств, щоб з’ясувати, скільки вирублено лісу, скільки експортовано, скільки втратила держава. Але найголовніше, чітко визначимо, скільки лісу втрачено, щоб розпочати його відновлення. Також обов’язково з’ясуємо, які лісгоспи займаються контрабандою, хто конкретно давав висновок про деревину, які люди її випускали. Ми зможемо прослідкувати весь ланцюг змови. Для цього залучимо "Укрзалізницю", щоб робити фотофіксацію вивезення лісу. Знімки всіх вагонів надходитимуть у Нацполіцію, ДФС, Держаудитслужбу. Я певен, що ці справи будуть дуже гучними та публічними, що допоможе навести порядок.#УрядГройсмана Сергій Білан Євген Кравцов Lidiia Gavrilova Максим Мартинюк Віктор Кривіцький

Posted by Volodymyr Groysman on Monday, July 23, 2018

 

On July 25 Ukraine’s parliament began deliberations on the new law controlling illegal logging which now includes proposals from President Poroshenko.

Categories: World News

Fake: Ukraine Troops Kill Separatist Defector

StopFake.org - Wed, 07/25/2018 - 12:10

The Ukrainian military killed a separatist militant who wanted to take advantage of the Ukrainian Security Service’s  (SBU) “They’re Waiting for you at Home” repatriation program announced Ria Novosti, Sputnik, RN, Breaking News 24 and scores of other Russian media, citing the military press office of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

Website screenshot PIA

Wevsite screenshot Sputnik

Website screenshot «Breaking news 24»

DPR press officer Danyiil Bezsonov claims that the man killed had been a pro-Russian militant fighting against Ukraine during 2014-2015 and had tried to enter Ukraine controlled territory under the SBU repatriation program, when he was detained by Ukrainian authorities and physically mistreated resulting in his death. Bezsonov further claims that the man’s body was then moved to the war zone so Ukrainian authorities could pin his death on Russian militants.

StopFake asked Ukraine’s Military Press Office about the alleged incident. In an email response press officer Vadym Bakay wrote that a militant was in fact killed on July 14, however he was killed by DPR fighters.

“Our soldiers saw a figure approaching their line near Mariupol. Suddenly someone opened fire from the other side. When our troops pulled the body to safety the man was already dead. He turns out to have been a member of a DPR rifle regiment,” Bakay wrote.

Bakay also refuted that the militant had tried to return to Ukraine through the “They’re waiting for you at home program”, as he had never contacted anyone in the program. According to Ukrainian military sources, the deceased had run up large debts in the occupied territories and had likely decided to go to Ukraine to avoid repayment. “His creditors probably found out about his intentions and simply shot him,” Bakay explained.

They’re waiting for you at home is a repatriation program launched by the Ukrainian Security Service. It aims to encourage people living in Russian separatist controlled areas to return to Ukraine controlled territory. Under the program, those who have not committed criminal acts while under DPR control are granted amnesty in Ukraine.

Categories: World News

The justifiable outrage at Western reporting on Ukraine

StopFake.org - Tue, 07/24/2018 - 22:45

By Ariana Gic, for StopFake

Only July 23, the BBC’s Panorama aired “The Faked Murder that Fooled the World”, about the staged murder of a Russian dissident journalist living in Kyiv at the end of May.  The staged assassination was the stuff of spy novels – Ukraine’s Security Services convincingly staged Arkady Babchenko’s assassination as part of a special operation to prevent more than 30 Russian assassination efforts, including Babchenko’s, and to reveal a Russian intelligence ring in the country.

Unsurprisingly, many took the opportunity to again voice their disgust with the Ukrainian operation which saved dozens of lives, as they had in the immediate aftermath of the staged attack. Social media was once again flooded with criticism over Ukraine’s use of deception for a mere day to save the life of a journalist whose believed passing had previously been mourned with great passion.

The criticism of Ukraine’s efforts to save lives once again brought into sharp focus the serious – but almost entirely unacknowledged – problems of extreme bias and double standards when it comes to Ukraine.

Many of the same journalists and analysts who do not admit Moscow’s pervasive and years-long use of deception to discredit and bring harm to Ukraine, expressed total outrage at Ukraine’s brief use of deception for achieving good.  Russia’s use of deception as a weapon against Ukraine has never sparked the same western fury as Ukraine’s use of deception as a shield has. Russia has denied waging what is now a nearly 5 year long undeclared war on Ukraine.

Many critics screamed that Ukraine “lost credibility”. But let’s be honest – Ukraine has never been treated as though it has real credibility, and is often denied the dignity and respect it should be afforded, including the right to its own voice representing its own interests. Instead Russians – nationals of the country waging war on Ukraine – were largely given that voice.

Change is long overdue. It is time for Ukraine to be given the respect it deserves. It is time for Ukrainian voices to be heard.

To the many westerners journalists and analysts who were “outraged” by the Babchenko operation, please know that after years of poor coverage of just about everything in Ukraine, Ukrainians are outraged too.

Many Ukrainians are outraged that your coverage of their country has created a grossly distorted picture of reality.

Many Ukrainians are outraged that you still do not write that Russia invaded or occupies Ukraine, instead writing about “rebel held territories”. Ukrainians are outraged that you paint Moscow’s unlawful interstate war on Ukraine as a “separatist uprising” that Moscow “backs” or “leads”. Ukrainians are outraged that you call Russian nationals fighting on Ukrainian soil, “Ukrainian separatists”. Ukrainians are outraged that when you write about Russia’s invasion, you ensure it is “balanced”, often giving at least equal airtime and consideration to Kremlin lies about Ukraine, as you do to Ukraine’s truthful side of the story.

Many Ukrainians are outraged that you wrote that “little green men” of “unknown origin” had invaded Crimea when it was abundantly clear these armed men were Russian soldiers. Ukrainians are outraged that you helped propagate the Kremlin lie that it was a civil uprising in Crimea against Ukrainian nationalists until Putin chose to admit that Moscow had occupied the peninsula. Only when the murderous war criminal admitted his crime did you bother to write the truth about it, without ever correcting your previous misinformation.

Many Ukrainians are outraged that you continue to help with Russia’s propaganda efforts about Ukraine. You write that Crimeans “voted” in a “referendum”, instead of writing about how the referendum was no referendum at all, and that many voters were “voting” at the barrel of a Kalashnikov.  Ukrainians are outraged that you don’t cover Moscow’s ethnic cleansing efforts of Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars in Crimea. You don’t write about how Russia has eradicated Ukrainian language instruction in all of occupied Ukraine, about Moscow’s destruction of all Ukrainian language texts in Crimea, or about many hundreds of thousands of transplanted Russian nationals to Crimea, as part of Moscow’s illegal policy to completely change the ethnic make-up of the region.

Many Ukrainians are outraged that you don’t write about the 700 schools that Russia has damaged or destroyed in Ukraine over the course of its military invasion. About the names of the soldiers who die at a rate of  about one to two per day defending their country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They are angry that you don’t write about how Russia has made eastern Ukraine one of the most heavily mined place in the world today, or about how young children are maimed and killed by this insidious weapon.

Many Ukrainians are outraged that when in 2015, Russia shelled the city of Mariupol, killing civilians and destroying infrastructure, you wrote that “it was not known who was responsible for the attack”. They are outraged that you did not widely report the findings of the Ukrainian Security Services that showed Russians were directly responsible for the attack, dismissing the truth until non-Ukrainian citizen journalists published much of the same nearly three years later. Ukrainians are outraged that you ignored Ukraine when in July 2014, it said the Russian military was responsible for the downing of flight MH17, and instead only reported Russian disinformation designed to distract and pollute the information space.

Ukrainians are outraged that you didn’t report on any one of the Russian military’s cross border shellings of Ukraine from Russian territory. They are outraged that you didn’t report on how many Russian soldiers were involved in the Ilovaisk and Debaltsove tragedies, where you wrote disparagingly about the Ukrainian army instead.

Ukrainians are outraged that you paint Ukraine as the most corrupt country on the planet, and that no matter what the topic is – including Russia’s war – you write about the “scourge of corruption” in “irredeemably and uniquely” corrupt Ukraine.

Many Ukrainians are outraged that you criticize them for defending their territory against invasion, for growing more patriotic when their sovereignty and independence are threatened, for daring to try to regain their own territory previously lost in battle against Russia. Ukrainians are outraged that you criticize Ukraine for fighting Kremlin information warfare, and absurdly misrepresent it as an unjustifiable restriction of “freedom of speech”. Ukrainians are outraged that you call Russian propaganda, “media”, and Russian propagandists, “journalists”.

Ukrainians are outraged that you grossly blow out of proportion the problem of the ultra-right, ignoring that they represent a marginal portion of society, and have a negligible role in politics. They are outraged that you do this while ignoring the real problem of neo-Nazi parties holding positions of power and championing Kremlin causes in your own countries.

Ukrainians are outraged that most of you didn’t know much, if anything, about Ukraine before you became “experts” on the country, and wrote things that weren’t true or accurate because you couldn’t possibly know better.

Ukrainians are outraged that you constantly criticize and belittle their country, and demand Ukraine meet standards your home countries do not meet.

Many Ukrainians are outraged that your first reaction to the news of Babchenko’s (staged) murder was to blame Ukraine for being such an unsafe place for journalists.

Ukrainians are outraged that many of you unjustifiably wield your pens as weapons against their country, and they don’t really care that you’re upset that deception was used to uncover a Russian intelligence ring that saved at least 30 lives.

By Ariana Gic, for StopFake

Categories: World News