The Russian propaganda guide to stealing your roommate’s burrito

StopFake.org - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 13:08

Photo: Ross Bruniges/Creative Commons

By Natalia Antonova, for Global Comment

Crap, you have stolen your roommate’s burrito. It happens to the best of us. Don’t have a roommate? I assume you’ve stolen something at least once from the communal fridge at work/accidentally picked up someone else’s sandwich order (I’ll have it be known, that under the right circumstances and/or with the right amount of liquor, “Pete” can totally sound like “Natalia”). Oh, you’re some kind of saint and you don’t steal food? Whatever, people like you are not real.

Anyway, now that the burrito has been stolen, you basically have two options:

  1. Admit to the crime and pay some ridiculous penance in the amount of at least two cans of La Croix, or do something equally humiliating.
  2. FIGHT THE CHARGES RUSSIAN-PROPAGANDA STYLE.

The latter is actually very easy — almost as easy as running the world’s biggest nation while appealing to feelings of revanchism amongst the poor while making the rich ever richer — and here’s how you must go about it:

Deny stealing the burrito

Don’t just say, “I didn’t steal this burrito,” though, that sounds defensive and lame as hell. Say, “Can you prove I’ve stolen this burrito,” while looking as inscrutable as Viggo Mortensen from Eastern Promises.

Accuse your roommate of stealing his own burrito

Provocations happen all the time in life, and what could be more of a brilliant provocation than stealing from oneself in order to point the finger at someone else? “Natalia, that makes no goddamn sense,” you’re probably saying right now. Well, whatever, idiot. “Wouldn’t it just be easier to say that your roommate ATE his own burrito?” No, that doesn’t sound nearly as complex and mysterious.

Admit the burrito theft occurred and demand an independent investigation

It’s OK to point out that the burrito is, in fact, missing. But who’s going to track it down? Your roommate? He’s far too biased.

Switch gears. Point out that your floss is missing from the bathroom cabinet. Pause dramatically. Let the implications set in

Things go missing all of the time. Many things, not just burritos. In fact, by focusing only on burritos, your roommate is engaging in exclusionary tactics, promoting burrito exceptionalism and a burrito-polar world. Your floss is also probably missing. Or maybe you just ran out of floss. You can’t remember. Better demand an independent investigation into the case of the missing floss while you are at it.

Accuse your accuser of prejudice

Your roommate doesn’t care about your floss? That’s blatant floss-phobia.

Point out random historical grievances in support of your argument

Your roommate is not so innocent! He’s certainly screwed up in the past!

Recall, in great detail:

The Great Exploding Coors Can Tragedy of 2015

That Time His Cousin Stayed Over (You’re Not Sure What Happened, But It Was Probably Unpleasant)

The Fact That He Doesn’t Listen To Any Music Recorded After 2006

The Fact That Living With A Roommate Generally Sucks, So Screw This Economy That We Are ALL Propping Up By Ordering Burritos All The Time

Blame Hillary Clinton

It has worked for many other people in the past.

Blame The Gay Ukrainian Nazi-Jew Lobby

It may or may not be real, but it does sound pretty freaky.

Draw a diagram of the kitchen. Photoshop a stereotypical burrito thief into it

Visual aids are important. As far as the picture of the thief goes, the hobo who hangs out in that littered space between the subway entrance and the deli certainly has angles that look suspicious enough.

Accuse your roommate of being hysterical and unreasonable

Only a hysterical and unreasonable person would be going on about a goddamn burrito so much, when so many other tragedies are taking place in the world simultaneously.

Muse poetically on the nature of truth

Is there such a thing as truth? What if what’s truth to one person is something else to another person? What if we bring parallel universes into it? A burrito thief in this universe could very well be the savior of small pugs from a giant house fire in a different universe. What about the butterfly effect? What if the theft of a burrito has just prevented an outbreak of armed conflict in the South China Sea?

The world is a mysterious place. The burrito may never be found? Well, the crew of the MV Joyita was never found either, so.

By Natalia Antonova, for Global Comment

Categories: World News

Issue brief: How disinformation impacts politics and publics

StopFake.org - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 13:01

By National Endowment for Democracy

In this Brief:
  • How disinformation is used and consumed
  • Proactive and reactive disinformation strategies in different country contexts
  • The scale of the disinformation crisis
Expanding the Analytical Frame

Disinformation—the use of half-truth and non-rational argument to manipulate public opinion in pursuit of political objectives—is a growing threat to the public sphere in countries around the world. The challenge posed by Russian disinformation has attracted significant attention in the United States and Europe; over time, observers have noted its role in “hybrid warfare,” its use to degrade public trust in media and state institutions, and its ability to amplify social division, resentment, and fear.

But Moscow is merely the most prominent purveyor of disinformation, not its sole source. Political actors around the world, ranging in size from state agencies to individuals, have found ways to exploit the economics of digital advertising and the fast-paced nature of the modern information ecosystem for their political advantage. Growing appreciation of the problem’s scale invites a shift in frame: from national security threat from a discrete actor to a broader appreciation of political-economic weaknesses in the contemporary information space.

Disinformation has a wider variety of purposes, in a wider variety of settings, than is commonly appreciated. In the short term, it can be used to distract from an issue, obscure the truth, or to inspire its consumers to take a certain course of action. In the long-term, disinformation can be part of a strategy to shape the information environment in which individuals, governments, and other actors form beliefs and make decisions.

Disinformation has a wider variety of purposes, in a wider variety of settings, than is commonly appreciated.

Disinformation as a Reactive Tactic

In the short term, disinformation can be utilized reactively by different entities: for example, when Russian-backed fighters in Eastern Ukraine shot down a commercial airliner, Russian state media went into overdrive proposing multiple, often conflicting alternative explanations for the plane’s crash.

Disinformation’s applications have also been evident in Syria, where Russian diplomats, media, and intelligence services have falsified evidence, pushed misleading narratives, and spread falsehoods relating to the role of Russia’s airstrikes, as well as to obscure evidence of the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons.

Another common technique is to react to a crisis by flooding the information space and drowning out discussion. After opposition protests broke out in Syria during 2011, newly-created Twitter accounts began harassing Syrian users, and social media researches allege that the Assad regime paid a public relations firm to flood opposition hashtags with photos of nature scenery and sports scores.

 

Bots and Trolls Shape Political Conversation Online

Online trolling, harassment, and distraction—especially by highly active automated accounts—are a key component of the modern disinformation purveyor’s toolkit. These techniques push independent voices out of public spaces and are sometimes considered a new form of political censorship. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was an early pioneer of this approach: for at least a decade, Beijing has deployed a “fifty-cent party” (apocryphally named for posters’ going rate per post) to “astroturf” support for the government and derail online political conversations that could spark mass mobilization. Recent estimates suggest this effort encompasses two million individuals, many of them state employees, and produces nearly 450 million social media posts per year.

Over time, similar approaches became a common aspect of authoritarian information manipulation and were later amplified through automation. In the early to mid-2000s, the Russian government began recruiting human commenters before later adopting the use of automated “bot” accounts. One study suggests that on Twitter more than half of tweets in Russian are produced by automated accounts. Aiming to avoid detection, many disinformation campaigns now avail themselves of accounts that are partially automated, partially controlled by human users; these are often referred to as cyborg or sock puppet accounts.

In recent years, the use of bots and trolls to shape online discussion has become so common across countries that it could be considered a widely exploited bug in the digital public square extending far beyond conflict or authoritarian settings. In Mexico, paid political consultants orchestrated the theft of campaign secrets and the large scale distribution of disinformation to voters. Such activity continues to this day, as pro-government accounts swarm political hashtags, threaten the lives of activists, and marginalize protesters.

In the Philippines, where the public square faces significant threats both online and off, interview-based research has explored a sophisticated “underground” public relations industry in which digital strategists, social media influencers, and paid commenters compete to deliver their clients the greatest degree of control over political narratives on the internet. In a stroke of market innovation, the subcontracting of digital disinformation in the Philippines has tied the financial and career incentives of competing freelancers to the objectives of national political parties, to devastating effect.

 

Proactive Disinformation and the “Demand Side” of the Challenge

The effectiveness of ‘reactive’ disinformation is limited by the unpredictability of real-world events. While it can offer those who use it a lifeline in times of crisis, reactive disinformation is by definition a response to unexpected, uncontrollable, or undesirable events and therefore generally used by those in disadvantageous strategic positions. Used proactively, disinformation provides much greater potential to move audiences to action, shape or confuse public understanding, and influence political events.

However, it does not provide a blank canvas on which to work. Effective disinformation campaigns usually draw on preexisting divides within target societies and produce content for which there is societal demand. Disinformation is at its most dangerous when amplifying existing political beliefs and divisions as opposed to introducing new beliefs or narratives into the public sphere. It is effective in doing so in part due to low trust in media and in part due to cognitive biases that make many consumers more likely to believe content that confirms their beliefs, to prefer partisan cheerleading over the conclusions of fact-checkers, and to share content that makes them angry or afraid. Research into the impact of social media use on political polarization is ongoing, but at a minimum suggests that the emergence of social media platforms as news sources has diminished the power of traditional “gatekeepers” of news and information. In turn, social media seems to have increased the social and political influence of a voracious subset of news consumers engaged in “motivated reasoning”—the selected interpretation of information to justify one’s preexisting beliefs, stances, or desires. These factors, combined with the speed at which information spreads online, create ideal conditions for disinformation campaigns.

Effective disinformation campaigns usually draw on preexisting divides within target societies and produce content for which there is societal demand.

Digital Disinformation Can Inspire Real-World Action

Proactive disinformation campaigns can achieve real-world impact by influencing the actions of its consumers. A prominent example comes from Germany’s 2016 “Lisa case,” which ignited nationwide debate over the country’s resettlement of Middle Eastern refugees and offered Moscow an opportunity to stoke divisions within Germany. Lisa, a thirteen year-old Russian-German girl, alleged that two migrant men kidnapped and raped her; the allegations were later proven to be untrue, but not before Russian state media actively spread the story and the Russian Foreign Minister publicly accused Berlin of a cover up. In Germany, thousands protested the government’s handling of the case. By using media and diplomatic resources to promote a false story at a time of rising German anti-migrant sentiment, Moscow sought to exploit domestic German political divides to encourage mass demonstrations and damage the German government politically.

Digital disinformation often promotes xenophobic sentiment, and hate speech is common. In India, far-right religious figures used messaging applications to spread false claims about religious minorities, sparking communal violence. In Indonesia, political and religious leaders have decried the spread of hate speech and rumors over social media, which played a pivotal role in the Jakarta mayoral election.

Mass media have been used to spread disinformation and hate speech in the past, and have played a key role in modern genocides. Social media is now playing a similar role in contemporary atrocities: in Burma, for instance, ultranationalist Buddhist monks have used social media to mobilize supporters and instigate violence against the Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority group.

 

Disinformation During Elections

Often, disinformation aims to influence citizens’ decisions to vote (or to abstain from voting). The use of disinformation around elections is probably only slightly younger than representative democracy itself, but the reach, speed, and low cost of disseminating disinformation over social media has amplified this problem.

The actors involved are often subnational political figures or organizations, although state organs are sometimes complicit. In South Korea, for example, the role of state-spread disinformation during the country’s 2012 presidential election was exposed after an investigation found that the National Intelligence Service generated more than 1.2 million Twitter messages supporting now-impeached South Korean President Park Geun-hye (or, as is often the case with disinformation, denigrating her rival).

The 2017 Kenyan elections offer a valuable case study in the widespread use of domestically sourced disinformation in an electoral context. As in the Philippine case cited above, rival political factions created sophisticated digital operations, conscripting influential social media personalities, paid commentators, and armies of bot accounts. Digital advertising techniques amplified the spread of hate speech and disinformation targeting political opponents. Hoax websites imitating real news outlets produced disinformation at an industrial scale, with one study finding that nine in ten Kenyans had seen false information about the election online, and 87 percent of respondents believing that information to be deliberately false. These techniques—not unique to Kenya—proved dangerous at an exceptionally contentious political moment in a country where the previous elections led to bloodshed.

 

Foreign-sourced Disinformation in Electoral Contexts

While disinformation frequently originates from domestic sources, some authoritarian governments increasingly use disinformation to influence elections beyond their borders. The Russian Federation stands out as the paramount example. Even a partial list of elections where Russian-produced or -supported disinformation has featured includes the French, German, and American elections in 2016 and 2017; the 2018 Czech presidential election; and the 2017 vote on Catalonian secession from Spain. In each of these cases, Moscow used a combination of state-owned international news outlets, smaller news sites linked to Moscow, and automated social media accounts, sometimes in tandem with leaks of stolen documents and communications.

It can be tremendously difficult to estimate the total effect of these simultaneous approaches, especially since international disinformation operations often imitate—or even promote—material produced by domestic actors. Sometimes, disinformation may flow the other way as it migrates from foreign sources to mainstream domestic news outlets.

Moscow is not the only actor in this space. While Beijing’s international media strategy differs substantially from Moscow’s, there is evidence it has experimented with disinformation in Taiwanese politics as part of a long-standing policy regarding unification between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.

Political actors have used disinformation for their benefit for millennia. However, the velocity and volume of disinformation in the contemporary information space seems to have amplified its effectiveness and left many members of the public increasingly angry, fearful, or disoriented.

Disinformation as a Strategic Approach

Not every disinformation campaign is linked to a specific event such as an election. Disinformation can also be used to alter the broader information space in which people discuss issues, form beliefs, and make political decisions; it is sometimes deployed to promote a larger narrative over time or to degrade civic discourse by promoting division or cynicism.

Political actors have used disinformation for their benefit for millennia. However, the velocity and volume of disinformation in the contemporary information space seems to have amplified its effectiveness and left many members of the public increasingly angry, fearful, or disoriented. This, in turn, leaves publics even more vulnerable to future manipulation, resulting in a cycle of declining public trust in objective sources of information which some analysts call “truth decay.”

Russian disinformation provides an instructive case study: at home and abroad, it draws on the principle that there is no such thing as objective truth. This allows Moscow to deploy multiple narratives and conspiracy theories when seeking to undermine public confidence in Western institutions, including claims that European politicians support Nazism in Ukraine, that the German government will pay for refugees and their “harems” to migrate to Europe, and that NATO planes spray mind-control chemicals over Poland. In addition to their explicit messages about Western wrongdoing, each of these stories implicitly suggests that Western media are concealing the truth from the public.

Consumers do not necessarily need to be persuaded by these stories—the introduction of doubt or anxiety may be enough to inspire distrust or political disengagement. In the case of the story about German taxpayers funding migrant harems, Moscow drew upon anti-migrant sentiment and resistance to German refugee policy to deepen political divides—not for the sake of inspiring immediate action, but because a divided and more fragile European Union serves Moscow’s geopolitical interests.

As with many of the applications of disinformation described above, it remains a mistake to believe this approach is only or even primarily adopted by state actors; subnational political actors, business interests, and other parties also draw from these practices. An example comes from South Africa, where wealthy industrialists with close ties to South African politicians hired a British PR firm to distract from growing political corruption by inflaming race relations. By combining media outlets owned by the industrialists with a “wildly successful” social media campaign, the firm temporarily distracted from an ongoing process of state capture by manipulating social divides over racial inequality.

The disinformation challenge is about more than authoritarian propaganda or PR techniques. Longstanding vulnerabilities in human cognition, combined with new and emerging technology’s impact on the information environment, allow for bad actors around the world to pursue political gains at the expense of democratic political discourse. The search for solutions must start by recognizing that the challenge is global and structural.

 

Brief prepared by Dean Jackson, International Forum for Democratic Studies. The author thanks Christina Apelseth for her research assistance.

 

FOR MORE “ISSUE BRIEFS,” CLICK HERE. FOR MORE FROM NED’S INTERNATIONAL FORUM ON THIS TOPIC, SEE:

Dean Jackson’s February 2018 Q&A with Dipayan Ghosh on the “Commercial Drivers of Precision Propaganda.”

Dean Jackson’s February 2018 Q&A with Maria Ressa on “Digital Disinformation and Philippine Democracy in the Balance.”

Distinguishing Disinformation from Propaganda, ‘Fake News,’ and Misinformation,” an International Forum issue brief by Dean Jackson.

Can Democracy Survive the Internet?” an April 2017 Journal of Democracy article by Nathaniel Persily.

The Disinformation Crisis and the Erosion of Truth,” by Dean Jackson for the Power 3.0 blog.

The Authoritarian Capture of Social Media,” by Peter Kreko for the Power 3.0 blog.

Dean Jackson’s November 2017 Q&A with Jonathon Morgan on “Tracking Digital Disinformation.”

Dean Jackson’s July 2017 Q&A with Phil Howard on “Computational Propaganda’s Challenge to Democracy.”

By National Endowment for Democracy

Categories: World News

Putin’s Direct Line and Ukraine

StopFake.org - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 12:42

When asked what advice would he give his grandchildren, Russian president Vladimir Putin responded with an answer that is uncharacteristic for a former KGB officer who has a history of magnificent mendacity behind him. Don’t lie, Putin said.  While his advice for grandchildren might have a ring of honesty to it, everything that the Russian ruler said about Ukraine followed the well-known script of untruth we are all too familiar with, Ukrainians and Russians are one people, the Ukrainian government is incapable of governing, the war in eastern Ukraine is not of Russia’s making and so forth. StopFake prepared an overview of Putin’s comments on Ukraine.

Sanctions

Sanctions against Russia is a favorite topic during Putin’s marathon television sessions. While the Russian president happily criticizes the sanctions as an attempt to bring Russia to her knees, he never mentions why the sanctions were instituted in the first place. But then no one actually asks him that either.

As expected, Putin followed the script on sanctions. This is a way of holding Russia back he said, because they see a threat in Russia, they see that Russia is becoming their competitor. Putin goes on to say what pro-Kremlin media parrots almost daily, that increasingly more and more voices abroad are calling for normal relations with Russia. All this will end when our partners realize that their methods are ineffective, counterproductive, and harmful for everyone, Putin said and warned that everyone will have to reckon with the interests of the Russian Federation.

Donbas

Russian writer and one of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic military commanders Zakhar Prilepin actively participated in fake news creation by telling Putin about rumors circulating in Donbas that Ukraine would launch an offensive during the 2018 World Cup being held in Russia.

Website screenshot kremlin.ru

“I hope that such provocations will not come to pass. But if this happens, I think that it will have very serious consequences for Ukrainian statehood as a whole” Putin said threateningly. He did not elaborate as to what those consequences might be but added that he does not expect an offensive and anyway, people who live in the Donbas cannot be intimidated. He then reassured the two self-proclaimed separatist enclaves that Russia would continue to have their back: “we render assistance to both unrecognized republics and we will continue to do that”.

Ukraine can’t solve the problems of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, Putin posited, because Ukraine does not need the voters who live here. It’s clear they would never vote for this government. Then he went on to babble about how Ukraine is constantly shelling civilians, how the OSCE regularly registers these violations. StopFake also regularly debunks these claims.

Brotherhood

In this year’s Direct Line, Vladimir Putin did not forget the obligatory reference to Ukraine as a “fraternal nation”. He reminded us that for him Ukraine is a “brotherly country” and that he considers Ukrainians and Russians practically one people.  Answering a question from Donetsk emigres who settled in Russia but are having difficulties formalizing their status and working there legally and asked Putin to help with the process the Russian president said: We have a common past, and I am convinced, regardless of any of today’s tragedies, we have a common future”.

Putin further explained that he is interested in the return of ‘compatriots’ because the birth rate in Russia is declining rapidly. Russia is interested in people regardless of nationalities and religious affiliation, Putin announced but clarified that “primarily we are talking about people who consider themselves to be closely connected to the Russian world, who know the Russian language, who have the right qualifications and want to work in our country”. Then in the tried and true Soviet tradition of problem solving, he gave instructions to some flunky to solve the Donbas emigres’ problems.

Crimea

Crimea had a place of honor in this year’s Direct Line with Vladimir Putin. Not quite Crimea directly but rather the main construction project of the Russian Federation, the Crimea bridge, across which traffic is growing daily. Local Crimea residents meanwhile asked Putin if they would get roads as good as their new bridge.

Website screenshot kremlin.ru

A female journalist piped in during the broadcast to assure Putin that there are more tourists in Kerch thanks to the newly constructed bridge, more tourists and more cars because people know that new roads will be built for them. This ever growing number of tourists flocking to Crimea is a regular Russian propaganda trope, that StopFake debunks regularly.

Crimea residents thanked Putin for the bridge, calling it a “grandiose, graceful construction”, “a dream come true” but they also asked why prices on the peninsula are so high. Putin had a ready answer for that as well, once truck traffic is launched across the Kerch strait bridge, prices in Crimea will stabilize and be on par with prices in nearby Russian regions.

On Journalists

Vladimir Putin also devoted his attention to the staged death of Russian journalist Arkadiy Babchenko by Ukraine’s Security Service and the list of 47 people who are the alleged targets of the Russian security service. Putin called the operation a provocation that has already been condemned by international journalists’ organization. “Any staging is always counterproductive, no matter what its justification” Putin said and added that all journalists’ safety must be ensured, journalists should not be pressured and citizens should have access to free information.

Website screenshot kremlin.ru

Asked if Kirill Vyshinsky, RIA Novosti’s chief editor in Ukraine who was arrested by Ukrainian authorities for treason could be exchanged for Ukrainian political prisoner Oleh Sentsov, Putin called the arrest “absolutely unprecedented and absolutely unacceptable” and said Russia would achieve Vishinsky’s release using pressure from international organizations.

Categories: World News

Russian Citizen Fact Check: ‘Everything…is a Lie’

StopFake.org - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 11:24

RUSSIA — Russian President Vladimir Putin holds his annual televised phone-in with the nation in Moscow, June 7, 2018

By Polygraph

Svetlana Sokolova

Russian regional governor

“Strunino is, of course, a small town, 14,000 residents in 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the main city, Alexandrov. And I think we will most definitely work on rebuilding that clinic there, especially since there is a need there.”

Source: Direct Line — RT’s YouTube

FALSE

Women called the statement a “lie”

President Putin seemed to be caught off guard during his nationally televised citizen question period Thursday, when a group of women stood in front of a crumbling hospital building. They claimed the 1929 structure in the small town of Strunino is dilapidated and that the local government is stripping away from their community vitally important healthcare services.

“What we’re looking at on the screen right now obviously needs — that, yes — obviously needs your special attention,” President Putin said, turning the microphone over to the minister of health in Moscow and the governor of the Vladimir region who explained she is spearheading reform of health care in the region.

“Strunino is, of course, a small town, 14,000 residents in 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the main city, Alexandrov,” said Governor Svetlana Sokolova. “And I think we will most definitely work on rebuilding that clinic there, especially since there is a need there.”

It should be noted that a TV presenter was standing with the women in the small and remote town – the logistics for live TV certainly an indication that the encounter was preset.

A screen grab of RT’s YouTube channel showing the women of Strunino in Russia, asking about their town’s crumbling hospital building

“These things are always scripted,” says Stephen Blank, senior fellow on Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council. “They don’t just cut to a local reporter in the boondocks.”

The TV presenter asked the Stunino women if there were happy, which is when the event seemed to go off script, leading to the citizen fact check.

“They said it’s [the children’s clinic] open but it’s not,” said one woman.

“Everything she said … is a lie,” said another.

RUSSIA — Russian President Vladimir Putin holds his annual televised phone-in with the nation in Moscow, June 7, 2018

This was Putin’s 16th annual session of “Direct Line.” He answers live questions by phone, text message and video calls. The event was hosted by Andrey Kondrashev, a press secretary of Putin’s election campaign and a deputy CEO of VGTRK, Kremlin-owned media group, and Kirill Kleimenov, a TV anchor from another Kremlin TV channel, Channel One. The format is widely seen as benefiting Putin, sometimes at the expense of local officials who answer many of the questions put to the president.

RUSSIA — Elderly women watch a live broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual question and answer session in the village of Yelna, Ivanovo region, June 7, 2018

According to the latest poll by the Russian independent Levada Center, 75% of Russians approve Vladimir Putin’s presidency, while 41% blame the local governors for the socio-economic hardships.

“I believe these events are always scripted, however that does not mean that the performers might go off the rails,” said Blank.

Interestingly, RT isolated the exchange and put it up on its YouTube channel.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

Russian troops keep dying in Syria six months after Putin announced their withdrawal

StopFake.org - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 15:28

Putin Orders Troops Withdrawal From Syria GRAB

By Polygraph

Russian Defense Ministry, via Sputnik

“Four Russian servicemen have been killed in Syria as a result of shelling by militants, the Russian Defense Ministry said. ‘Several groups of terrorists attacked an artillery battery of the Syrian government forces at night in the Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor. Two Russian military advisers, who directed the fire of the Syrian artillery, were killed on the spot. Five more servicemen were injured and were taken to the hospital immediately,’ the ministry said.”

Source: Sputnik, May 27, 2018

UNCLEAR

Observers say more than four Russian troops were killed in the attack

Russia’s Defense Ministry announced four servicemen were killed by terrorist shelling in Syria’s eastern Deir Ezzor province, Russian media reported on May 27.

However, independent observers and media contradict the official casualty figures. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told the French news agency AFP that at least nine Russian troops were killed in the attack, which it said took place on May 23 in the town of Mayadeen in Deir Ezzor province.

On May 23, the same day the attack reportedly took place, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman General Sergey Rudskoy held a briefing in Moscow on the situation in Syria.

Rodskoy said that the Russian military, together with Syrian government army, had “gained significant success in freeing the key regions of Syria from the remnants of terrorist groups,” listing several provinces “now under total control of the government forces.” Rudskoy did not cite any Russian or Syrian government troop losses on either that same day or any time in the past.

Over the years, the Russian Defense Ministry and the Kremlin have denied or downplayed casualties in Syria. However, in February, leaks of audio recordings revealed that Russian troops and mercenaries in Syria had suffered heavy lossesduring an attack they launched against U.S. forces there.

Maxim Borodin, a 32 years old investigative reporter

Maxim Borodin, the investigative journalist who first reported on the deaths of Russian troops in Syria, died in April as a result of “falling out a window,” after telling his lawyer over the phone that his apartment was surrounded by masked men equipped like commandos.

The Syrian government has called Mayadeen the Islamic State’s “last bastion in the country.” Regime forces entered Mayadeen on October 6, 2017, following overnight Russian airstrikes that reportedly killed 14 people, including three children.

Map of Syria locating Deir Ezzor

Last December 11, President Vladimir Putin ordered the Defense Ministry to start the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria. Government media presented Putin’s move as a “success of Russian diplomacy” and the creation of “conditions for real de-escalation.”

Polygraph.info was unable to confirm whether or not the shelling incident in Mayadeen last week killed four Russian servicemen, as the Russian Defense Ministry claimed, or at least nine Russian servicemen, as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed. That is why the statement by the Russian Defense Ministry is given an “unclear” verdict. If other details surrounding the incident emerge, that verdict may be updated.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

Can crowdsourcing scale fact-checking up, up, up? Probably not, and here’s why

StopFake.org - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 13:55

Photo by Ekansh Saxena on Unsplash

By Mevan Babakar, for NiemanLab

There’s no end to the need for fact-checking, but fact-checking teams are usually small and struggle to keep up with the demand. In recent months, organizations like WikiTribune have suggested crowdsourcing as an attractive, low-cost way that fact-checking could scale.

As the head of automated fact-checking at the U.K.’s independent fact-checking organization Full Fact, I’ve had a lot of time to think about these suggestions, and I don’t believe that crowdsourcing can solve the fact-checking bottleneck. It might even make it worse. But — as two notable attempts, TruthSquad and FactcheckEU, have shown — even if crowdsourcing can’t help scale the core business of fact checking, it could help streamline activities that take place around it.

Think of crowdsourced fact-checking as including three components: speed (how quickly the task can be done), complexity (how difficult the task is to perform; how much oversight it needs), and coverage (the number of topics or areas that can be covered). You can optimize for (at most) two of these at a time; the third has to be sacrificed.

High-profile examples of crowdsourcing like Wikipedia, Quora, and Stack Overflow harness and gather collective knowledge, and have proven that large crowds can be used in meaningful ways for complex tasks across many topics. But the tradeoff is speed.

Projects like Gender Balance (which asks users to identify the gender of politicians) and Democracy Club Candidates (which crowdsources information about election candidates) have shown that small crowds can have a big effect when it comes to simple tasks, done quickly. But the tradeoff is broad coverage.

At Full Fact, during the 2015 U.K. general election, we had 120 volunteers aid our media monitoring operation. They looked through the entire media output every day and extracted the claims being made. The tradeoff here was that the task wasn’t very complex (it didn’t need oversight, and we only had to do a few spot checks).

But we do have two examples of projects that have operated at both high levels of complexity, within short timeframes, and across broad areas: TruthSquad and FactCheckEU.

TruthSquad, a pilot project to crowdsource fact checking run in partnership with Factcheck.org, received funding from the Omidyar Network in 2010. The project’s primary goal was to promote news literacy and public engagement, rather than to devise a scalable approach to fact-checking. Readers were asked to rate claims and then, with the aid of a moderating journalist, fact checks were produced. Project lead Fabrice Florin concluded, in part:

Despite high levels of participation, we didn’t get as many useful links and reviews from our community as we had hoped. Our editorial team did much of the hard work to research factual evidence. (Two-thirds of story reviews and most links were posted by our staff.) Each quote represented up to two days of work from our editors, from start to finish. So this project turned out to be more labor-intensive than we thought.

The project was successful in engaging readers to take part in the fact-checking process, but it didn’t prove to be a model for producing high-quality fact checks at scale.

FactCheckEU, meanwhile, was run as a fact-checking endeavor across Europe by Alexios Mantzarlis, co-founder of Italian fact-checking site Pagella Politica, who now leads Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network.

“There was this inherent conflict between wanting to keep the quality of a fact check high, and wanting to get a lot of people involved,” Mantzarlis told me. “We probably erred on the side of keeping the quality of the content high, and so we would review everything that hadn’t been submitted by a higher-level fact-checker.”

Fact checking includes a few different stages. Looking at these stages can help us figure out why crowdsourced fact-checking hasn’t proven successful.

Monitoring and spotting. This involves looking through newspapers, TV, social media, and so on to find claims that can be checked and are worthy of being checked. The decision of whether or not to check a specific claim is often made by an editorial team.

If claims are submitted and decided upon by the crowd, you have to ensure the selection of claims is spread fairly across the political spectrum and are sourced from a variety of outlets. That leads to a few concerns:

— Will opposition parties always have a vested interest in upvoting claims from those in power? Will this skew the total set of fact checks produced?

— Will well-resourced campaigns upvote the claims that best serves their purposes?

— The kinds of people who volunteer to help fact check are a naturally self-selecting group.

Also, Mantzarlis said, “interesting topics would get snatched up relatively fast.” What does that mean for the more mundane but still important claims?

Checking and publishing. This stage encompasses the research and writeup of the fact check. Primary sources and expert opinions are consulted to understand the claims, available data, and their context. Conclusions are synthesized, and content is produced to explain the situation clearly and fairly. TruthSquad and FactcheckEU both discovered that this part of the process required more oversight than they’d expected.

“We were, at the peak, a team of three,” Mantzarlis said. “We foolishly thought that harnessing the crowd was going to require fewer human resources, when in fact it required, at least at the micro level, more.” The editing process, which ensures a level of quality, was, in this case, a key demotivator.

“Where we really lost time, often multiple days, was in the back and forth,” Mantzarlis said. “It either took more time to do that than to write it up ourselves, or they lost interest.”

In addition, at Full Fact and many other fact-checking organizations, fact checking starts from primary sources — but this may not be the crowd’s inclination. A recent analysis of Reddit’s /r/politicalfactchecking subredditargued that the activity on that channel is a good example of crowdsourced fact-checking. But most of the citations in the fact checks produced by Redditors came from secondary sources like Wikipedia, not primary sources. That’s important because it means efforts like this don’t actually scale fact checking — they just re-post something that’s been checked already.

The other bits. After research and content production, there are various activities that take place around the fact check. These include asking for corrections to the record, doing promotion on social media, turning fact checks into different formats like video, or translating them into different languages. “Most of the success we got harnessing the crowd was actually in the translations,” Mantzarlis said. “People were very happy to translate fact checks into other languages.”

By Mevan Babakar, for NiemanLab

Mevan Babakar is the digital product manager at Full Fact. This post is adapted from a longer post about crowdsourced fact checking that originally ran on Full Fact’s blog. Read it here.

Categories: World News

What do Russian nationalists, Alex Jones and Roseanne have in common?

StopFake.org - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 13:27

Russian Language Version of the “Soros Nazi” poster

By Polygraph

Ya Russkiy Website

“This is George Soros. Remember this next time the Soros-funded liberals call you a racist, fascist or Nazi.”

Source: Ya-Russ.ru, April 22, 2016

FALSE

The man in the picture is Oskar Groening. Still, the narrative is very popular in Russia

American businessman and philanthropist George Soros is a frequent target of pieces posted by the Ya Russkiy website, which calls itself a news and media organization.

Ya Russkiy is one of many Websites propagating “Russian exceptionalism” and is popular among Russians with ultra-nationalistic views. Its Facebook page has more than 100,000 likes and followers.

The Soros narrative is a story that has meandered across the Atlantic between Russia nationalists and conspiracy theorists in the U.S., alighting on U.S. actress Roseanne Barr’s Twitter feed this week. Barr was fired by a U.S. television network on May 29 for tweets many said were racist. That same day, she repeated the false Nazi/Soros narrative, which seems to fit together neatly in the world of Ya Russkiy.

English language version of the “Soros Nazi” Fake Poster

On April 22, Ya Russkiy published an article headlined “SS-man George Soros,” with a poster depicting a young man in a Nazi uniform and a caption in Russian that read: “This is George Soros. Remember this next time the Soros-funded liberals call you a racist, fascist or Nazi.” There is also a Russian translation of the caption.

Russian Language Vesrion of the “Soros Nazi” poster

This same article has been recycled repeatedly, re-appearing on different Russian platforms.

It was posted on December 10, 2016, by a different Russian nationalist website, kramola.info.

With the addition of a recent photo of George Soros, the same piece was posted on December 12, 2016, by the well-known anti-Ukrainian website Antimaidan.

Despite its mysterious popularity among Russian ultra-nationalists, the story is false and been thoroughly debunked.

Google image search results for the picture from “Soros Nazi” poster

The man identified on the poster as “George Soros” is in fact Oskar Groening, a Nazi SS junior squad leader known as the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz,” the Nazi concentration camp. Groening was one of the last Germans charged with war crimes and died this past March at the age of 96.

The picture of Oskar Goering cut our of the “Soros Nazi” poster

Russia banned Soros-founded NGOs in November 2015 after the government said that they “posed a threat to the constitutional order of the country” and designated them as “undesirables.”

Across the Atlantic, the Russian George Soros-Nazi narrative resonates with a conspiracy theory pushed by InfoWars founder Alex Jones.

George Soros Admits Roseanne Barr Was Right https://t.co/acZK6roMTE

— Alex Jones (@RealAlexJones) May 29, 2018

It is also very popular with believers in the “Illuminati” conspiracy, who target George Soros as often as do the Russian nationalist websites.

“It is hard to prove collusion but this is a striking coincidence,” British journalist and author Edward Lucas told Polygraph.info. “I doubt U.S. far-right circles are sufficiently well-informed about wartime Hungary to understand this, whereas Russian ex-KGB types are hyper-alert for any sign of ‘fascist’ backgrounds among their adversaries and would instantly see the significance.”

The Russian search engine Yandex.ru links together keywords “Nazi” “Fascist” “Soros” and “Liberal”

In the United States, fact checkers report the early stories labeling the teenage Soros as a Nazi go back to a “misreading” of a 1998 CBS 60 minutes interview. Some of the anti-Soros claims in the U.S. date as far back as the year 2000, and have been repeated in different forms recently.

.@georgesoros, now a principle financial backer of violent #Antifa thugs, admits his collaboration with Hitler and says he has no regrets: pic.twitter.com/P1Xl1vo87T

— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) September 2, 2017


Last week the topic made another wave of headlines in the United States, after the popular American TV actress Roseanne Barr, in a Twitter exchange with Chelsea Clinton, accused Soros of being a Nazi “who turned in his fellow Jews 2 be murdered in German concentration camps & stole their wealth.”

Sorry to have tweeted incorrect info about you!I Please forgive me! By the way, George Soros is a nazi who turned in his fellow Jews 2 be murdered in German concentration camps & stole their wealth-were you aware of that? But, we all make mistakes, right Chelsea?

— Roseanne Barr (@therealroseanne) May 29, 2018

George Soros responded to Barr, saying her comments were an “insult to Holocaust survivors.”

“George Soros survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary as a 13-year-old child by going into hiding and assuming a false identity with the help of his father, who managed to save his own family and help many other Jews survive the Holocaust,” Soros’s spokesperson said.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

How many non-existent apples go into two apples?

StopFake.org - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 13:11

By EU vs Disinfo

Distracting the audience is one of the goals of the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign. One of the techniques how to do this is to force us to ask the needed irrelevant questions – and drain our energy in trying to find the answers to them.

An easy, fast and effective way to create disinforming content is to manipulate statistics and figures. And since the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign’s main goal is to sow discord (and not to maintain credibility), being caught red-handed is not an issue.
This week, we saw how distorted figures were used as parts of larger pro-Kremlin disinformation campaigns. Let us highlight them here.

MH17. The Russian Defence Ministry has had a crucial role in producing fabricated evidence for the needs of the disinformation campaign on MH17, and this week was not an exception. After the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team published its new report on the MH17 downing last week, one of the responses of the Russian Ministry of Defence was to claim that the missiles from year 1986 – that downed the MH17 – were disposed of after 2011. This was reported by Sputnik and Russia Today and widely spread by the Russian-language media.

But the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign proved its ability to debunk itself: In fact, as noted by Bellingcat, the the Buk manufacturer Almaz Antey used one missile from 1987 in their MH17 test in 2015, which means it was 28 years old and should have already been decommissioned. Diverting the audience towards heated discussions about numbers blurs the facts provided to us by the JIT: that flight MH17 was shot down by a missile that was launched by a BUK-TELAR from an area controlled by pro-Russian fighters, that it was brought in from Russia and taken back to Russia and that it originates from a unit of the Russian army from Kursk.

Alarm as EU’s economy on the brink of collapse. During this week, Russia’s Defence Ministry was active on another front. Its TV Channel Zvezda reported how the European Parliament has informed about “total unemployment” in the EU. In fact, 1) the European Parliament’s research presented the unemployment rates among young people in each EU member state; 2) there has been a significant improvement in the past few years (in spring 2013, the youth employment rate peaked at 23,8 % and then declined sharply to 16,1 in 2018); and 3) huge imbalances persist between EU Member States. The lowest rates were observed in the Czech Republic (5.8 %) and Germany (6.6 %) while the highest were recorded in Greece (43.7 %), Spain (36.0 %) and Italy (31.5 %).

State-controlled Russian TV continued to spread multiple theories regarding the Salisbury attack and referred to “another oddity: the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons OPCW says that 100 grams of nerve agent were used in Salisbury”. In fact, the OPCW stated already a month ago that it had wrongly referred to grams in the comments to New York Times, when the quantity should probably be characterised in milligrams.

The question presented in the headline – how many non-existent apples go into two apples? – has confused mathematicians for hundreds of years when they have sought the answer to the nature of zero.
It seems that the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign doesn’t have to waste time on such pondering. It is able to create as many non-existing pieces of any kind of fruit as fits its purpose.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

The curious case of Pavel Stroilov

StopFake.org - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 19:34

By Sarah Hurst (@XSovietNews)

A middle-aged Russian “student” who was once described as a friend of Alexander Litvinenko has also been former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky’s spokesman and an aide to the MEP who is now leader of the anti-EU UKIP party, Gerard Batten. Pavel Stroilov has also promoted conspiracy theories and been described by a judge as a Christian fanatic. Is he really a friend of dissidents in the UK, or something more sinister? StopFake tried to find out.

Recently, during the high-profile case of terminally ill toddler Alfie Evans, whose parents unsuccessfully fought for him to receive additional treatment, a Russian “law student” called Pavel Stroilov briefly hit the headlines in the UK. The bearded man in glasses with a strong accent featured in a Daily Mirror story that quoted the judge in the Alfie Evans case calling him a “fanatical and deluded young man” for threatening to prosecute doctors at the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool for murder.

A video of Stroilov speaking outside the hospital as a representative of the London-based Christian Legal Centre shows him saying “Just wanted to inform you that Italy has just granted citizenship to Alfie, and the Italian ambassador has urgently contacted the court with a request for the Italian government to be allowed to intervene in the case and seek the return of their citizen, Alfie Evans, to Italy.” The child, whose life support was withdrawn after a degenerative brain condition put him in a semi-vegetative state, died shortly afterwards in late April.

High Court judge Mr Justice Hayden criticised Stroilov’s “malign hand”, and added that some of his legal advice to Alfie’s parents had come close to contempt of court. The judge said that the hospital had provided “world-class care” to Alfie. But was he right in characterising Stroilov as “fanatical”? If the perpetual law student who claims to be a Christian has such a concern for children’s lives, why did he also advise former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky in his trial for possession of child pornography? It is interesting that an erratic and hardly credible person such as Stroilov keeps popping up in all kinds of public settings.

Bukovsky’s spokesman

In Russian media Stroilov was regularly described as Bukovsky’s “official spokesman” as the dissident raged against the British charges. Bukovsky took the unusual step of even suing the Crown Prosecution Service for libel – perhaps on Stroilov’s advice – because Bukovsky objected to the legal term “making” child pornography (which includes downloading material), and to the charges being published on the CPS website. The lawsuit was rejected and Bukovsky’s trial was eventually abandoned due to his ill health. But not before the prosecutor had said in a Cambridge court that Bukovsky had downloaded more than 20,000 indecent still and video images of children over a period of 15 years and treated it as a hobby “like stamp collecting”.

According to the prosecutor, Bukovsky told police that he didn’t think he was harming anyone or committing any crime by looking at the images. This sharply contrasts with his public protestations before the trial opened, when he insisted that his computer had been hacked by the FSB and even went on hunger strike briefly at his home over his alleged unfair treatment. But it does fit with the argument made by his friend Alexander Podrabinek, another former Soviet dissident who regularly presents a programme on Radio Svoboda called Deja Vu. Podrabinek dedicated one of his programmes to Bukovsky’s case in August 2016 and interviewed Stroilov via Skype, describing him as an “English lawyer”. Podrabinek said that looking at indecent images could even prevent potential paedophiles from acting on their impulses, and that British authorities should devote their attentions to the “real” paedophiles, not people who only view images. He overlooked the fact that children have to be abused in order for the “customers” to receive the images, and compared Bukovsky to computer pioneer Alan Turing, whose prosecution for homosexuality in 1952 probably led to his suicide.

Commenting on the rejection of Bukovsky’s lawsuit, Stroilov told Podrabinek in Russian, “The decision was quite disappointing from the point of view of, let’s say, trust in British justice, and to what extent it’s completely independent from the state, so of course this decision doesn’t bring any particular honour to British justice, and we’ll have to appeal.” Stroilov gave no explanation as to why he thought the ruling in the lawsuit on the legality of the CPS publishing the official charges against Bukovsky suggested that the British justice system is not independent from the government. As in the case of the Skripals, there is no motivation for the British government to be prejudiced against Bukovsky. The UK has provided a refuge to Bukovsky and Sergei Skripal, and now Yulia Skripal also. Bukovsky himself lives in almost squalid circumstances in a dilapidated house and is known for getting up at about 2 or 3 pm each day, so it is odd that he is able to employ a “spokesman” – if indeed Stroilov was ever paid for his questionable services.

UKIP leader and Litvinenko

Another person that Stroilov has “helped” is the current leader of the anti-EU UKIP party, Gerard Batten, whom he worked for. Stroilov was given asylum in the UK in 2006 after “fleeing” from Russia supposedly with thousands of Kremlin files that he had stolen from the Gorbachev Foundation’s archives. In 2009 Stroilov told a Romanian website: “The reason why I had to do this so urgently was the scandal around the Romanian part of the collection. Before the last elections, President Iliescu threatened a libel lawsuit against my friend Vladimir Bukovsky, who told the press about Iliescu’s Soviet connections. This was a big political battle some five or six years ago, so we could not hold the documents any longer. With my permission, Vladimir published the most important papers on Iliescu – without naming me as the source of the documents, as I was still in Russia. Then Iliescu shut up about a lawsuit, and soon afterwards, lost the elections.”

How Stroilov, living in Russia, became friends with Bukovsky, is unknown. One thing they have in common is a hatred of the EU. Together they published wrote a 48-page book, published in 2004, called “EUSSR: The Soviet roots of European integration.” According to an article by Richard Evans in 2010 on the website of Canadian conspiracy theorist Henry Makow, “In 1999, the Moscow office of the Gorbachev Foundation granted access to its vast digital archive to a limited number of vetted Russian history researchers. One of them was Pavel Stroilov.” If true, even if Stroilov was 18 in 1999, that makes him at least 37 today – not such a young man, but still apparently a student. Stroilov was frustrated that the media didn’t take more interest in the files he had stolen, or realise that they “proved” that German reunification was part of a plot for a socialist takeover of Europe instigated by Gorbachev. Evans goes on to say, “The central banks of and economies of both East and West are owned by the same Illuminati Jewish families. Communism and capitalism are just facades. All that remains is for the veil to be lifted: the NWO [New World Order].”

“Coincidentally”, when Stroilov started working for Gerard Batten in 2006, Alexander Litvinenko was one of Batten’s constituents and the MEP tried to get Litvinenko’s claims that Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi had been the KGB’s “man in Italy” investigated. Later that year Litvinenko was murdered, and Stroilov subsequently translated a book based on his personal diaries. Stroilov’s association with Litvinenko, Bukovsky and Batten does not seem to have brought any of them many benefits. In response to a request for an interview about Stroilov from StopFake, Batten wrote, “I am sorry but I simply don’t have time at the moment. And even less so with a by-election on the horizon. Sorry I cannot help.”

International Defence charity

A search on the Companies House website reveals that Stroilov was also appointed secretary of a company called International Defence in 2012, which dissolved in 2016. The company director is named as lawyer Andrew Blade, but Blade’s signature on documents is just a squiggle, and his nationality is stated to be Russian. Lev Ponomarev, presumably the human rights activist, is one of three Russians listed as guarantors of the company. Another is Vitaly Arkhangelsky, a Russian businessman in France whose case Stroilov has also been involved in. Russia has been seeking Arkhangelsky’s extradition.

In its description International Defence calls itself a charity “which is helping persons who are affected by the unlawful acts of the authority, by the corruption, who are affected by the political motivated chase, who needs a help by the reason that their human right was breached, who needs a protect from authority and organizations which is used by authorities to chase the not guilty people.” Pavel Stroilov did not respond to requests to comment from StopFake. The question of whether he is an independent person with a range of high-profile friends and acquaintances or if he has some other motivation or financial backing remains, for now, unanswered. Certainly, if his goal is to place himself in controversial situations and cause chaos, he can be considered fairly successful.

By Sarah Hurst (@XSovietNews)

Categories: World News

Russia-Linked ‘American’ Site Downplays Russian Connections

StopFake.org - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 17:45

By Polygraph

Unknown

Editor of USA Really Website

“This exciting new project will encourage our colleagues and fellow citizens to think critically, and to provide a large platform where this can still happen, free of censorship. We need to be creative, to start our own watchdog organizations, and restore our basic constitutional freedoms.The key to being able to do that, starts with the fight for freedom of speech.”

Source: USA Really

MISLEADING

The project was initially announced, in Russian, as a creation of the Russian Federal News Agency.

Internet users who stumble on the site USA Really, at first glance, might think it is just one of many “alternative news” sites. Unlike most media sites, there is no “about” section to inform readers who is behind the site or what its objective is. The closest thing visitors can find to a description of the site is in one post entitled “Deep State vs. USA Really.”

USA Really’s call for journalists

“The reality is that ‘USA Really’ is simply an honest and open platform, based on giving a large public platform to Americans – dissidents, patriots, radicals, and ‘regular folk’ of yesterday who suddenly today find themselves considered ‘bots,’ ‘trolls’ and whatever other slander and dirt that the behemoth can throw at them,” the anonymous author writes.

The actual subject of the article is how the project’s Facebook page and Twitter accounts were suspended by those respective platforms. The author attributes those bans to a “random Ukrainian web site” which allegedly accused USA Really of being a “Russian influence operation.” While they do not identify the Ukrainian site, a Google search strongly suggests it was the media outlet UNIAN, which has a news Web site, a TV station in Kyiv and is a Ukrainian news service. For example, UNIAN articles appear in the Kyiv Post.

The USA Really article routinely uses the term “we” and makes references to “fellow citizens,” implying that the site is run by Americans. While not acknowledging a connection to Russia, it dismisses the idea of such a connection as not “crucial.” The rest of the article also displays unnatural English with mistakes in grammar and syntax. In another post calling for volunteer journalists, the site’s editors make no reference to Russia or the project’s leadership.

USA Really’s call for journalists

As far as content, it is a mixed bag. There are innocuous news stories, such as one about hurricane season in the U.S. At the same time, there are opinion articles that seem to offer contradictory opinions. One op-ed attacks U.S. President Donald Trump and seems to be left-leaning. Others, such as one about LGBT (homosexual, bisexual, and transgender) rights in the U.S. and a recent incident of racial profilingat Starbucks, promote a right-wing viewpoint.

The authors who get bylines also share some key details. For example, Luis Lazaro Tijerina is described as an American from Salina, Kansas who “has contributed many essays to the Russian think tanks, Katehon.ru and Geopolitica.ru.” Both of these “think tanks” are connected to Alexander Dugin, a far-right wing Russian ideologue who supports the Kremlin. Another author, Joaquin Flores, also writes for a “Belgrade-based think tank” known as the Center for Syncretic Studies, another Duginist front organization. Flores has also contributed to Iran’s Press TV and the Russian state media outlets RT and Sputnik.

The author bio for the writer of the Starbucks piece, Andrew Korybko, is curiously thin; he is described as a native Clevelander who graduated from The Ohio State University and now lives and works in Moscow. In reality, Korybko is a regular contributor to Russian state media, where he is inexplicably billed as an expert on topics such as “regime change, color revolutions and unconventional warfare.”

Given its eclectic editorial positions and the Russian connections of its bylined authors, there is good reason to suspect USA Really is a Russian project. But if this evidence isn’t enough, there’s also the fact that the project initially outed itself as a creation of the Russian Federal News Agency on April 4, 2018.

McClatchy DC reported on USA Really on June 1, noting that the website’s banner displays American flags alongside a photo of the White House, with the declaration “America will wake up on June 14th!”The date is in reference to a call for a rally outside the White House to be held that day.

USA Really banner referencing a planned demonstration outside the White House

​“June 14th is not just the birthday of the US President. Not just a Flag Day.” the announcement began. “On this day we officially starts (sic) our project ‘USA Really’: the honest media about what is really happening around.” (sic)

Despite the incorrect grammar and unnatural English, there is nothing in the announcement identifying the organizers or mentioning any connection to Russia.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

Disinformation Resilience in Central and Eastern Europe

StopFake.org - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 16:05

By Ukrainian Prism

Download the publication

The countries of Eastern and Central Europe have become Russia’s test field for new propaganda methods, and the regions of Eastern Partnership, the Baltic States and Visegrad countries are a special target for information warfare. Ukrainian Prism in partnership with leading think tanks of the region evaluated the situation  in fourteen countries and presented the Disinformation Resilience Index  to come up with bet common solutions for countering propaganda.

The Disinformation Resilience Index is based on comprehensive methodology  that allows conducting multifaceted and robust analysis of communication activities of the Kremlin’s information and psychological campaigns in the selected countries, as well as assess the impact of the Kremlin-led disinformation. The interdisciplinary approach and variety of qualitative and quantitative methods and tools allow measuring the issue from different perspectives. In its turn, the respective measuring will create the preconditions for elaborating additional instruments that can be further applied to assess in detail the vulnerabilities of the participating countries and counteract them by relevant means which are at the disposal of stakeholders.

The implementing partner and scientific coordinator of the project is a Warsaw-based think tank EAST Center .

Research results

Download the publication

The project brings together high profile analysts from:
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Czech Republic
  • Estonia
  • Georgia
  • Hungary
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Moldova
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Ukraine

Applying the same comprehensive methodology to the research in fourteen countries at a time  will give the holistic picture of resilience to disinformation of CEE and thus will allow to form the common comprehensive approach to fighting Russian disinformation warfare. Project findings will contribute into reaching the goals of “A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign And Security Policy”, which highlights that “the EU will foster the resilience of its democracies”,“resilience is also a priority in other countries within and beyond the ENP”, “managing the relationship with Russia represents a key strategic challenge. A consistent and united approach must remain the cornerstone of EU policy towards Russia”

The main project objective is to strengthen the resilience of Central and Eastern European states  to foreign, foremost, Russia-led disinformation activities by developing a comprehensive assessment methodology (Disinformation Resilience Index) and launching a periodical comparative assessment of the situation in the selected countries

Two expert groups will meet to elaborate the methodology in Chernihiv, Ukraine in:
  • June, 2017
  • October, 2017

By Ukrainian Prism

Categories: World News

Kremlin Watch Briefing: Is the staged murder of Arkadiy Babchenko a success story?

StopFake.org - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 15:50
The Prague Manual

Funded by the International Visegrad Fund, The Prague Manual (1) describes the toolkit of Russian subversion operations in Europe, (2) comes up with first-ever policy assessments of specific initiatives for countering this threat in 10 mainly CEE countries and (3) sets up a scheme for assessing the state of play of Russian influence in a targeted country with suggested countermeasures, since there is no single blueprint for the defense strategy given different levels of response in selected countries. You can read the report on our website.

The last week has been rife with emotional and critical debate regarding the staged murder of Russian journalist Arkadiy Babchenko, who resides in Ukraine. After becoming aware of a threat to Babchenko’s life, the Ukrainian intelligence service SBU conducted a sting operation to save his life and apprehend the criminals behind the plot. The operation was successful and Arkadiy Babchenko survived, re-emerging a day later at a press conference in Kyiv with SBU officials. While many have praised the SBU for successfully pulling off such a complex and sensitive operation, others are criticizing the agency for contributing to the spread of disinformation and undermining the West’s moral high ground in the conflict with Russia. While some concerns about the SBU’s communication strategy may be valid, we should remember in our evaluation of this case that Ukraine is under ruthless hybrid assault by the Russian Federation, and that the SBU likely did not have viable alternative options to save Babchenko’s life. Further to this point, we recommend reading a recent opinion by our non-resident fellow, Kateryna Kruk.

Topics of the Week

A new proposal by the European Parliament calls for greater scrutiny regarding foreign investment and would allow EU member states to screen such investments on grounds of security or public order.

A sanctioned Russian bank, VTB, has been lobbying in Washington to end US sanctions. It sought to influence members of Congress by throwing lavish parties, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

The Polish defense ministry has officially asked the US to establish a permanent military presence on its soil in order to deter Russian aggression.

Russian channels are celebrating the new Italian government, hoping for the removal of sanctions.

Robotrolling: Only 7% of Russian-language Twitter users can be identified as humans or institutions, while 93% are classified as news account, bots, hybrid or anonymous accounts. In contrast, the English language space is more evenly distributed with a ratio of 45:55.

Good Old Soviet Joke

“You are sentenced for contravening Article 58… now 25 years of life are guaranteed for you!”

Policy & Research News EU lawmakers seek greater scrutiny into foreign investment

The European Parliament’s International Trade Committee (INTA) overwhelmingly approved a bold proposal that calls for greater scrutiny into foreign investment, reportedly in response to growing Chinese acquisitions in Europe. The proposal, part of a trade and investment package announced by the Commission in September 2017, will allow EU member states and the European Commission to screen such investments on grounds of security or public order. The aim of the proposal, according to the INTA press release, is “to ensure that foreign investments do not pose a threat to critical infrastructure, key technologies or access sensitive information.” MEP Franck Proust, who presented the proposal, said: “We are not against foreign investment, but against strange investment.” To foster member states’ cooperation on foreign investments and share best practices, MEPs also suggest setting up a Commission-chaired Investment Screening Coordination Group. The proposal is to be voted upon by the European Parliament at its June 11-14 plenary session in Strasbourg.

Helsinki commission explains how to sanction rights abusers

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the US Helsinki Commission, an independent agency of the US government, released a how-to guide for sanctioning human rights abusers and kleptocrats under the Global Magnitsky Act. The seven-page document, published by the commission on May 24, includes a whole range of sanctions-related recommendations, including how to identify, compile and submit information on individuals who warrant sanctioning. Along with these technical tips, the guide also focuses on how to make the case that sanctioning a particular individual will serve US interests, an important consideration for sanctions decisions. The Global Magnitsky Act enables the US government to impose sanctions on the world’s worst human rights abusers and most corrupt oligarchs and foreign officials by freezing their US assets and preventing them from traveling to the United States.

Canadian hacker jailed following FSB-commissioned email breach

Karim Baratov, a 23-year-old Kazakhstan-born Canadian citizen who assisted Russian FSB officers in hacking webmail accounts, has been sentenced to five years in prison, the US Department of Justice reported on May 29. Baratov, who was arrested in Toronto last year and extradited to the United States, pleaded guilty in November to hacking 80 accounts upon agreement with Dmitry Dokuchaev, a Russian FSB operative, in exchange for commissions. The targets, according to the prosecutors, included “Russian journalists, U.S. and Russian government officials and private-sector employees of financial, transportation and other companies.” Baratov also admitted to hacking more than eleven thousand email accounts as part of his illegal hacking business which he ran from 2010-2017. Three other men, indicted in the case along with Baratov, remain in Russia.

US Developments How a sanctioned Russian bank is trying to get the US to drop sanctions

An attempt by the Russian bank VTB to influence members of Congress by throwing lavish VIP parties in Washington was uncovered after a recent Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. That such parties were not disclosed in time represents yet another violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by the bank’s Washington lobbyists.

VTB has suffered under US sanctions since 2014 and has been actively lobbying to end the measures for several years. The bank’s frequent failure to disclose its influence efforts points to the many holes in FARA, which was passed in 1938 to combat Nazi propaganda. FARA represents a major piece of US anti-propaganda legislation, requiring foreign entities to disclose their influence efforts within the US (last year, RT was notably forced to register under the law). However, according to The Daily Beast, the law is riddled with exceptions and has weak enforcement, as the VTB case ostensibly demonstrates.

VTB’s lobbyists also delayed disclosing a series of 2016 meetings with government officials on the bank’s behalf several months past the deadline imposed by FARA. The Department of Justice has grown tougher on FARA in recent years, especially after Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election came to light. Despite the reported $1.2 million that VTB paid to one of its US lobbying firms, pressure has continued to mount against the bank; its chairman, Andrey Kostin, was included on the US list of sanctioned individuals in April 2018.

Poland requests a permanent US military base on its soil

The Polish defense ministry has officially asked Washington to establish a permanent military presence in the country. Poland has sought to increase military cooperation with the US since it joined NATO in 1999, and this desire has only increased in face of the growing Russian threat in the region since the 2014 annexation of Crimea. The goal of this strategy, according to the proposal, is to establish a force that “is necessary to present an unequivocal challenge and deterrence to Russia’s increasingly emboldened and dangerous posture that threatens Europe.” The proposal recommends deploying 15,000 US troops and 250 tanks, plus other armored vehicles.

Predictably, the Kremlin has expressed displeasure about the request. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced that such a move would harm the overall atmosphere in Europe and called such a move “expansionist”, cautioning that Russia would take appropriate countermeasures.

Meanwhile, NATO’s supreme allied commander and senior US general in Europe announced at a recent meeting in Weisbaden that he is seeking more troops, spy planes, and military resources to deter Russian aggression in Europe. General Curtis Scaparrotti said that deterrence of Russia in Europe is one of his central tasks, to which end he is requesting that more US resources be allocated from counter-terrorism efforts to addressing the Russian threat.

Academia in the spotlight:

US academics affiliated with sanctioned oligarch’s think tank

A recent article has revealed that a number of US academics are actively affiliated with the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC-RI) – a think tank founded by Vladimir Yakunin, a former KGB general and current oligarch, known to be a close confidant of Vladimir Putin. The DOC-RI, in its mission to create a more “sustainable, inclusive, and fairer place for all mankind”, has been instrumental in whitewashing Russia’s international reputation and acting as an “instrument of Moscow’s hybrid warfare” against Western liberal democracies.

In 2014, the US sanctioned Yakunin; however, the DOC-RI continues to recruit American scholars to grant the organization credibility and expand its outreach. Currently, eight academics are officially affiliated with the organization. It is startling that, amidst the questionable sources of Yakunin’s income and the disinformation efforts of the DOC-RI, none of these professionals have broken their affiliation with the organization; in fact, some apparently remain entirely oblivious to Yakunin’s sanctioning. That American academics are aiding the propagation of Russian influence and disinformation efforts is an abdication of social responsibility as well as a considerable security risk. Going forward, this issue should be closely monitored; universities and academic councils should also develop a policy to discourage staff from cooperating with individuals sanctioned by the US government.

Former US intel chief:

“Russian efforts affected the outcome” of 2016 election

James Clapper, the former national intelligence director, has published a new memoir titled Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence, in which he describes as “staggering” the evidence that Russia affected the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election. In his memoir, Clapper outlines extensive evidence regarding Russia’s meddling and promotion of Donald Trump – the candidate who was expected to serve the Kremlin’s geopolitical interests – and notes that “to conclude otherwise stretches logic, common sense, and credulity to the breaking point.”

Clapper also cautions about the dangers of Trump’s dismissal of inconvenient facts as “fake news” or a “witch hunt” and condemns his attitude of “aggressive indifference” regarding the Russia threat, despite incontrovertible evidence that the Kremlin has and continues to meddle in US domestic affairs and security.

The Kremlin’s Current Narrative Good and bad sanctions

Our beloved Russian media is celebrating good news from Italy: a coalition government of friends of Putin was sworn on June 1. Russia is now anticipating the changes this will bring to relations between the two countries.

Russian journalists have already suggested that the coalition’s composition of Eurosceptic parties will boost relations between Italy and Russia. The present article also notes that “Italy strongly opposes European sanctions against Russia because of the damaging effect they have on Italian economy”. This doesn’t mean much in practical terms, however, since the author laments that “sanctions aren’t decided by Rome, Athens or Paris but by Brussels and Washington”. Could it be that even ‘journalists’ of the Kremlin propaganda machine have begun to realise that Western sanctions aren’t going anywhere in the near future?

While Vzglyad is concerned about European sanctions against Russia, RT is becoming gleeful about the prospect of American sanctions against Iran. In an article titled How US sanctions on Iran can help Russia win trade battle with European rivals”, the author enthusiastically discusses the possibilities of Russian-Iranian cooperation, noting that “business of the countries under the U.S. sanctions have simply nothing to lose”.

“Companies from Russia can simply ignore Washington’s threats of imposing fines for trade with Iran or for conducting projects in Iran, the analyst says. Russian trade with Iran accounts only for $2 billion, but it can grow significantly, Pushkarev notes. “This is quite real because Russia and Iran are natural allies in Syria. Rosneft has preliminary agreements with Iran worth up to $30 billion, and even if only a small part of these plans are implemented with Russia, and not with European partners, it can be a significant gain for Moscow,” he said.”

Kremlin Watch Reading Suggestion Robotrolling Issue 2

The recent issue of Robotrolling by NATO StratCom CoE analyses bot activity and anonymous users on English and Russian-language social media. It finds an overall shift away from bot accounts and an increase in anonymous accounts. This increase in anonymous activity is not only rising in relation to the decrease in bot accounts but also in absolute terms. This suggests that anonymous accounts are used to create fake identities aimed at promoting sponsored messages. The study also finds that only 7% of Russian-language Twitter users can be identified as humans or institutions, while 93% are classified as news accounts, bots, hybrid, or anonymous accounts. In contrast, the English language space is more evenly distributed with a ratio of 45:55. Therefore, the Russian-language space has six times the possibility of inauthentic content. Furthermore, Russian-language posts from bots and anonymous accounts increased by more than 250%.

The study also reviews the main trends and themes of bot and anonymous activity in Poland and the Baltic states. It finds that Russian-language bot activity was relatively low during the winter, but after the Skripal case and rising tensions in the Middle East, bot and anonymous activity concerning NATO increased sharply. Specifically, in Estonia, bots accounted for 55% of Russian language posts about NATO, which are modest figures compared to earlier ones. In Latvia, however, the number of Russian language posts has increased, and the proportion of bot activity has increased to 53%. Lithuania witnessed the lowest levels of bot activity on social media. In Poland, the purchase of the American Patriot air defence system attracted much commentary from anonymous users, both in Russian and English, which led to posts about NATO and Poland being approximately 40% higher than the equivalent for the Baltic states. This suggests that the online conversation was being manipulated by external actors.

Kremlin Watch is a strategic program of the European Values Think-Tank, which aims to expose and confront instruments of Russian influence and disinformation operations focused against liberal-democratic system.

Categories: World News

Smile! You’re on Russian State TV

StopFake.org - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 14:20

By EU vs Disinfo

A smile was apparently added to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s facial expression in a Sunday night show broadcast on 3 June by Russian state TV Rossiya 1.

As the independent Russian outlet Meduza, the BBC and other media reported, Russian social media users were quick to question the authenticity of the image, which was used as documentation of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Pyongyang on 31 May.

A popular Russian online satire account, Lentach, posted a comparison of the official handshake photo with the image that appeared on Rossiya 1 on the Russian social media network, Vkontakte.

Lentach: “Rossiya 1 showed a photo from Lavrov’s meeting with Kim Jong-un. But they added a photoshopped smile so as not to cloud Kiselev’s joyful content”.

Dmitry Kiselev, the host of the Sunday night programme where the image appeared, denied in a comment to Radio Govorit Moskva that it had been doctored: “Definitely not. They always take pictures with high-speed shutters. That’s why facial expressions are different.”

Social media users and bloggers did their best to try to detect the smile in video footage showing the handshake moment, but without success.

Click on the video and check for yourself if you can detect the smile which appeared on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s face when his handshake moment with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was shown on Russian state TV.

The Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin struck a more serious note in his comment on Twitter:

Путинское ТВ прифотошопило Ким Чен Ыну улыбку на встрече с Лавровым. Пока тренируются на мрачном северокорейском диктаторе, а завтра и нас всех радоваться заставят. Со счастливой улыбкой россияне будут встречать новости о повышении цен, росте тарифов ЖКХ и дотациях олигархам. pic.twitter.com/gPAgbp06dO

— Илья Яшин (@IlyaYashin) June 3, 2018

Twitter Ads info and privacy

Ilya Yashin: “They’re testing [the smile] on the gloomy North Korean dictator, but tomorrow they’ll make us all happy. With a joyous smile, Russians will welcome news of price rises, utility rates hikes and subsidies to oligarchs”.

It is not the first time Russian state TV channels are accused of having faked images for their stories. In February, Pervy Kanal used a screenshot from a computer game called “Arma 3” in their Sunday evening news show.

Oops, we did it again: Russian state TV used images from a computer game as an illustration of Russian military action in Syria.

In November last year, it was Rossiya 1’s sister channel, Rossiya 24, which used computer game images as “irrefutable proof” of US combat troops providing cover for ISIS in Syria. The images, which had been made available by Russia’s Defence Ministry, turned out to be screenshots from “AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron”.

The state TV channel Rossiya 24 and Russia’s Ministry of Defence presented this image from a computer game as “irrefutable proof” of alleged US cooperation with ISIS.

The image with Kim Jong-un’s smile was brought to Russian TV audiences by the EU-sanctioned host Dmitry Kiselev, who is also Director General of the Russian state-owned media holding Rossiya Segondya, which includes the news wire agency RIA Novosti and the online propaganda outlet Sputnik

The case comes on top of more than 100 examples of disinformation from Mr Kiselev’s Sunday night show Vesti Nedeli (“News of the week”), which have been included in our database of pro-Kremlin disinformation

By EU vs Disinfo
Categories: World News

The death and resurrection show; Babchenko’s staged murder and bias against Ukraine

StopFake.org - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 14:07

By Stephen Komarnyckyj, for Byline

When Ukraine staged a murder to save a journalist it was vitriolically attacked while Russia, which commissioned his murder, was treated with kid gloves. Why?

On Tuesday 29 May Arkady Babchenko played the leading role in the dramatization of his own murder. A fake hitman “shot” him and Babchenko, who had practised falling for the role, collapsed. The CPR staged in the ambulance failed, his death was registered, and he was rolled into a morgue supposedly a corpse. The mortuary doors creaked shut, the sheet was whisked away, and he rose from the dead beating Jesus Christ’s record by two days. During the hours that followed he had the unique opportunity to read his own obituaries, and know what his grief stricken colleagues thought of him.

However, when he appeared at a press conference organised by the SBU, Ukraine’s security service, reactions to his resurrection were deeply polarised. According to the SBU’s account, Babchenko’s assassination had been commissioned by Russia. A Ukrainian businessman, Borys German, had been recruited to organise the killing. He, according to some accounts, in turn hired Oleksey Tsymbaliuk, a Right Sector activist, and Donbas war veteran, to kill Babchenko, who then approached the SBU. Tsymbaliuk became part of a plan to deceive German and the organisers of the assassination. The staging of the murder allowed them to intercept a final communication from its organisers with a list of over 30 more targets. German himself has accused another Ukrainian citizen of running Putin’s slush fund for commissioning assassinations in Ukraine.

Babchenko had died so that he and others might live. However, the world’s media and journalist’s organisations were overwhelmingly critical of Ukraine, which had protected a journalist; there was little or no criticism of Russia, which had commissioned Babchenko’s murder. Ukrainians celebrated the success of their security service; but much of the world was more derogatory of Babchenko’s saviours than they were of his killers. There was no empathy for Babchenko, a man with the threat of death hanging over him and his family.

The criticisms of Babchenko, and the operation to save him are, almost without exception, ill founded. Some journalists argued that he should not have participated in a special op designed to deceive the public. The Committee to Protect Journalists queried why the SBU had accused Russia of organising the crime, but not provided evidence. Edward Lucas of The Economist stated that the SBU operation had confounded the problem of fake news. The OSCE representative similarly condemned Ukraine for spreading fake information. Kevin Rothrock, a journalist specialising in Russia, raged that he would never trust a report coming out of Ukraine again. There is, however, a clear difference between fake or junk news designed to conceal the perpetrators of a crime; and a deception designed to catch criminals. Furthermore, if it were not for evidence provided by Ukraine, including phone taps provided by the SBU, we would not know the truth about MH17. We would not have access to the hacked e mails of Surkov, the subject of a report co authored by Alya Shandra editor of Euromaidan Press, and the accompanying understanding of how Putin’s regime works. Ukrainians too have produced pioneering initiatives to tackle fake news including Stop Fake and Inform Napalm.

The OSCE Media Freedom Representative attacks a country which saved a journalist

It was, of course, unreasonable of the CPJ to expect that the SBU would begin providing evidence that will not emerge until a trial is held at an initial press conference. Equally, it was ludicrous on the part of journalists to suggest Babchenko was wrong to take these steps to save his and his family’s life. Babchenko himself was scathing of his media critics on his blog. “They sit down in all seriousness, puff out their cheeks and begin to pour out their pompous moralising on the computer screen. They ….daub you with shit [when you have spent] a month living with the realisation that your death has already been paid for.”

Why is there so much negativity towards Ukraine? Moscow has been managing the west’s press corps for decades. In the nineteen thirties when Gareth Jones reported on the Ukrainian famine his fellow journalists turned on him. As Eugene Lyons noted in “Assignment in Utopia”; “Throwing down Jones was as unpleasant a chore as fell to any of us in years of juggling facts to please dictatorial regimes. But throw him down we did… in almost identical formulas…” In the years that followed Russia manipulated academics by using soft power, and masked the genocidal nature of the famine.

More recently Putin has successfully controlled coverage of his invasion of Ukraine’s Donbas. His promise to use Ukrainian civilians as human shields is rarely mentioned in coverage of the conflict. The invasion initially involved Russian special forces and paramilitaries seizing public buildings and posing as separatists. Rent a mobs were gathered in their support. A substantial area of the Donbas was seized by a hybrid force of Russian military and paid local collaborators. Yet this charade is routinely referred to as a civil war; the collaborators, their ranks swelled when Ukraine had no choice but to return fire on artillery positions based, as Putin designed, in civilian areas are termed separatists (and since Ukraine didn’t always retaliate the Russians shelled the areas they controlled themselves). The presence of Ukraine’s right wing founded Azov battalion is focused on; the far more significant role of Russia’s neo Nazis on the front line and in military strategy is ignored. More worryingly the pervasiveness of a neo Nazi ideal of establishing Russian supremacy over Eurasia is rarely explored. If other nations were aware of the insane thinking pervading Russia’s elite they might be more prepared to deal with Russia’s hybrid assault.

Journalism is failing Ukraine and the west now as it failed before. Western historians and journalists, for their own reasons, often act as conduits for Russian narratives. Ukraine lost a minimum total of 13.5 million people at the hands of the Nazis and Soviets. Yet pretty much no western historian pays due attention to this central fact of twentieth century history. That ignorance, and a callous stigmatisation as collaborators of a nation which lost more than any other at the hands of the Nazis (when collaboration was in fact more widespread elsewhere),  pervades the west and shapes its response to Ukraine. Similarly, Russia’s contempt for Ukrainian national identity pervades the usage of Ukrainian motifs in culture. Lufthansa and Apple produce ad campaigns which conflate Ukraine’s heroic Cyborgs and its capital Kyiv with Russia. The denigration of all things Ukrainian is picked up and amplified, note perfect, in many responses to Ukraine by a chorus of commentators seemingly unaware of who is standing at the conductor’s podium, or happy to benefit from their compliance.

While the SBU was being berated for saving a journalist, Roman Sushchenko a Ukrainian journalist, was being tried on fictitious espionage charges, having been held since 2016. He was sentenced to twelve years hard labour on 4 June. The Committee to Protect Journalists, which was swift and withering in its criticism of Ukraine, issued a muted, formulaic statement in response to the sentence. Indeed their initial response to his detention on 30 September 2016 was anodyne; reading it you might almost believe there was some substance to the charges. This at a time when Russia had lied incessantly over MH17. As regards the credibility of the espionage charges, Russia sentenced a Ukrainian to eight years in May 2018, on the grounds that he was planning to undertake acts of sabotage with a handsaw.

This was merely one in a whole series of faked trials, including that of Oleg Sentsov, who is currently on hunger strike demanding the release of Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia. His fellow prisoner Volodymyr Balukh, who was sentenced for the crime of flying the Ukrainian flag in Crimea, is also on hunger strike and in a critical condition. Oleksandr Kolchenko, who was sentenced alongside Sentsov is also on hunger strike, now. And Russia is denying Oleksandr Hryb, a Ukrainian teenager it honey trapped, kidnapped, and sentenced on bogus charges, the money he needs to purchase his medication. Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are dying on the front lines of a major land war in Europe, while politicians such as Macron fawn over Putin at economic forums, and head for the blood spattered World Cup 2018. Yet the real outrage, for many journalist and their organisations, was Ukraine’s blow against the Russian dictator’s hired killers and their success in saving a journalist. Putin will be encouraged by the antipathy towards Ukraine displayed in the aftermath of Babchenko’s resurrection. It will encourage Russia to commit the murder of more journalists in Ukraine, in the knowledge that, whether the SBU succeeds or fails in protecting its targets, Ukraine will be blamed. If they succeed all of those whose criticism of Babchenko’s saviours was skewed by unconscious bias, or deliberately malicious,  will bear a measure of responsibility for Putin’s next victim.

By Stephen Komarnyckyj, for Byline

Steve Komarnyckyj is a PEN award winning literary translator and poet whose work is published by Kalyna Language Press and features on the PEN World Bookshelf. You can e mail him on komarnyckyj.steve(at)gmail.com

With thanks to Siriol Colley (1925-2011) who I was privileged to meet, for sharing her research and her books about her uncle, the great Gareth Jones, and restoring his legacy. 

Categories: World News

Paris wants tools to fight against the disinformation

StopFake.org - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 10:10

Source: AFP

France is the next country willing to fight against the wave of false information by introducing new laws. However, as always in the case of such suggestions, their opponents claim that the law is not only not going to work but could be used to mute those who criticise the authorities.

The proposed law would allow French authorities to immediately stop publication of the information considered false. According to the project, the social networks would have to introduce mechanisms allowing users to report false information and pass the to authorities. It would also be compulsory to publish reports about coping with fake news. Furthermore, the law provides the possibility of depriving the foreign subjects whose activity would be considered destabilising of the right of broadcasting on French. Apparently, the considered subjects are, in this case, Russian disinformation hotbeds such as RT or Sputnik. “It is not about decreasing the freedom of speech but about its protection,” Francoise Nyssen, French minister of culture said. If the law is introduced, the judges would have 48 hours to make decision about deleting the piece of information.

As always in such cases, there are voices stating that the new law can allow the censorship of the information inconvenient for the authorities. Vincent Lanier, the head of France’s national journalists’ union, called the draft “ineffective and potentially dangerous”. “It is a step towards the censorship,” he said. The same opinion is shared by Jerome Fenoglio, the editor in chief of the daily newspaper “Le Monde”. In his opinion, the new law carries the risk of muting the information that are reported in the public interest. “Elections should be the time of great freedom. This is the period when important information appears,” he said.

The bill is neither liked by the opposition. Marine Le Pen, the head of far-right National Front, stated that the law will serve to create the Ministry of Truth straight from George Orwell’s novel.

The bill will be discussed in the French parliament on Thursday the 7th of June and if it is passed, it would be introduced already during the next year election to the European Parliament.

The author of the draft is Emmanuel Macron himself, who was personally touched by the plague of fake news. In 2017 occurred the theories stating him to be gay and to have a secret account in Bahamas.

Source: AFP

Categories: World News

WhatsApp is a black box for fake news. Verificado 2018 is making real progress fixing that

StopFake.org - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 06:02

Illustration from L.M. Glackens “The yellow press” (1910) via The Public Domain Review

By Laura Hazard Owen, for NiemanLab

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

Fact-checking the Mexican election on WhatsApp. Fake news on WhatsApp is a really hard problem to solve. News is spread in closed exchanges and messages are encrypted, making it impossible to know how what’s being spread or how many people are seeing it. False information doesn’t just come as text, but as images and memes. WhatsApp is also by far the most popular social platform in many countries — including Mexico, which holds its general election July 1 (with more than 10,000 candidates running for general and local office).

Verificado 2018, a collaborative election reporting and fact-checking initiative led by Animal PolíticoAJ+ Español, and Pop-Up Newsroom, is trying to intervene in the spread of fake news on WhatsApp — and having some success. Verificado’s mission is broad; it launched in March and has partners in 28 of Mexico’s 32 states. It’s fact-checking and producing content across multiple social platforms, not just WhatsApp — but I was particularly intrigued by what it’s doing there.

“We don’t want to invade. We understand that WhatsApp is not like Twitter or Facebook — we see it as a private space for the users to interact with family and friends,” said Diana Larrea Maccise, content editor at Al Jazeera Media Institute. “So instead of using broadcast to spread our debunks, we opted for an individual relationship.” Verificado set up a WhatsApp line where users can send it information to verify; it then responds to those individual users. “We are not going to use our broadcast list to spread the debunk to people who aren’t actually inquiring about it,” she explained.

To get the fact checks to more people, though, Verificado features them in its WhatsApp statuses — “a daily average of 10 different statuses in our WhatsApp, so the people who are subscribed to our WhatsApp line will see these debunks that are constantly being updated,” Maccise said. The userscan then directly share those statuses to their own networks. Each debunk — Verificado is referring to them as “vertificados,” a combination of “vertical” and “verify” — consists of the viral image, with bullet points about why it’s true or false stamped over it.

While the process seems fairly individualized, it is scaling. Verificado’s WhatsApp line officially launched on May 18; two weeks in, 4,800 people have subscribed to it and it has received a whopping 18,500 messages — 13,800 of which it has answered. (Maccise cautioned that “messages” here refers simply to interactions — requests to verify content, as well as any other message, such as a greeting. But Verificado plans to filter out actual fact-check requests more specifically in a report it will release after the election.) Each of its published debunk statuses has gotten about 1,000 views (though in reality it’s probably more, since users who disable the read receipt feature aren’t counted in WhatsApp’s analytics). And all of this is handled by just 4 people on Verificado’s end.

What kinds of information is coming in to be verified? Maccise said it’s mostly images, and mentioned that it’s usually impossible to know where each piece of misinformation originates — “we don’t know if it started through a WhatsApp account with someone who made a meme, circulated it within WhatsApp and then it jumped to Facebook or Twitter, or if it was the other way around…That’s a huge challenge, not only for us, but for all journalists trying to make sense of how misinformation spreads.”

You can add Verificado on WhatsApp: 55-1245-5032, or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.

“It’s all of you, dear readers, plus your chacha, mama, second, third, fourth cousins and even that uncle you don’t like very much.” India’s The Quint posted on the spread of fake news in family WhatsApp groups. “Try telling your mom that the news she just shared with you is fake. She will respond by saying that the only real news in the khandaan is that her aulad is such a nalayak! On second thoughts, the unending, overtly cheesy Good Morning messages of relatives seem better than all this fake propaganda, to be honest. So rishtedaars, keep them coming, even though these messages have apparently given Silicon Valley many sleepless nights!”

At least 21 imprisoned on fake news charges. This ABC News report offers a good overview of how countries are clamping down on journalists using “fake news” rhetoric. At least 21 journalists worldwide were imprisoned on charges of fake news in 2017, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

By Laura Hazard Owen, for NiemanLab

Categories: World News

Retracing the steps of a disinformation campaign

StopFake.org - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 22:00

By EU vs Disinfo

2018 has already seen several clear examples of the ongoing pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign. First came the disinformation surrounding the Skripal poisoning, then the smokescreen designed to hide the facts concerning the chemical attack in Douma, and this week a return to the disinformation accompanying the MH17 disaster.

But something is different from previous years. Action has been taken by Western states, both concerning the disinformation campaigns surrounding these events, and also concerning the actors behind the incidents.

After the attack on the Skripals, 18 EU Member States and 7 other countries ordered the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats in solidarity with the UK. And by carefully tracking back the movement of the BUK missile that was used to shoot down flight MH17, the international investigation could finally show that it was a Russian BUK – leading the Dutch and the Australian governments to formally hold Russia accountable, a decision that also gained support from the EU as well as support from the US.

As expected, the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign focused almost all its efforts on discrediting the meticulous investigation presented last Friday by the Joint Investigation Team into the MH17 tragedy. In doing so, it even raised similarities with the Skripal case, but in the opposite way of how we will describe it, claiming that in neither case had the investigators presented any evidence.

Below we retrace the tracks of the disinformation circulating this week concerning the downing of flight MH17.

All Russia’s efforts to commence a serious, solid and professional joint work are rejected as a planned provocation

Actually, Russia has presented evidence on several occasions. The trouble with the ”evidence” is that not only is it fabricated, but also incompatible. In fact, the second presentation of ”proof” by the Russian Defence Ministry even debunked their first batch of ”evidence”.

Donbas was a war zone and it was a known war zone, where missiles were operating, entirely capable of shooting down a commercial jet from the sky. Therefore it was the responsibly of whoever controls the air traffic in the region to reroute planes from the Donbas war zone

Well, at that time, the airspace was closed over the area up to 32,000 feet. The commercial flight MH17 was passing the area at 33,000 feet. There was nothing to suggest at the time that the presumed ill-equipped pro-Russian separatists would have access to sophisticated weapons that would be able to shoot down an airplane at that height.

The Dutch commission has hushed up information about where and when the engine of the BUK missile was found, as well as about those who handed it over to the investigators

Actually, following the crash, there was an international outcry over the way the pro-Russian separatists handled the debris site, leaving passengers’ remains exposed to summer heat and allowing untrained volunteers to comb through the area, which led to weeks of delays in the removal of the wreckage.

The Netherlands demand that Russia provide evidence of their guilt

In fact, the Netherlands call on Russia to accept its responsibility and cooperate fully with the process to establish the truth and achieve justice for the victims of flight MH17 and their next of kin.

These accusations against Russia are unfounded rumours/fakes and/or several other explanations are possible (Ukraine did it, it is a NATO campaign against Russia, it is Russophobia)

The investigation has meticulously traced the BUK on its way from Russia and back.  For a full explanation of the findings from the JIT, watch their video.

At the end of the trail, it comes down to this; the BUK that shot down MH17 came from the Russian Armed Forces. It was transported into pro-Russian separatist controlled area by a Russian convoy. There is forensic and visual evidence, and three independent investigations have all come to the same conclusion. Meanwhile, Russia used its veto to block a draft resolution to set up an international tribunal into the MH17 air disaster.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

Russian disinfo patterns: same actors, different sets

StopFake.org - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 14:35

By Lukas Andriukaitis, Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis, special for StopFake

The dark arts of disinformation has many different shades. Have you ever had the feeling that you have seen that person before, even if the name looks unfamiliar? Well, if you are a regular consumer of Kremlin-funded media, it might be more than just a feeling. As the conflict broke out in Ukraine in 2014 a well-prepared information warfare campaign was carried out to set the public mood against the Ukrainian forces and Ukrainian nation. One of such techniques was to overfill the media with made up stories of Ukrainian troops committing various crimes. In many cases the same actors were used to play the roles of alleged locals. These forgeries were detected rather soon, but the damage had already been done and certainly not all of the people who saw the fake reports were informed that they were lied to. Despite the fact that the use of this method has lately decreased significantly, it remains one of the most blatant and effective tools in information warfare. In our ‘Disinfo Patterns’ series, Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis continues to present various methods and tools that Kremlin-funded media uses to achieve their goals. This time VIPA takes a deeper look into the use of the same actors in different propaganda videos. Here is what we found.

‘I think I saw you before’

The logic behind this disinformation tool is rather simple. In order to make as many heart-touching stories, mobile reporter teams are deployed. If there are not enough of events worthy to report on, new ones have to be invented to feed the population with the preferred ideological messages and images. Here are a few actors that were used early on in 2014, which should be kept on the radar. The likeliness of them to appear can be debated, but these actors were caught red-handed and serve as proof of the dirty Kremlin information games. Here is a collection of the most infamous actors who have been used in the Russian propaganda.

Maria Cipko (Мария Ципко)

Probably the most infamous actor that has showed up multiple times on Russian and Russian-led separatist media outlets is the actor Maria Cipko. She is a professional impersonator (гастролерша) working for the Kremlin propaganda apparatus and appearing in all sorts of different characters throughout various mainstream and niche Russian-language media outlets. She appeared in video reports in various cities of Ukraine, Russian occupied territories in Donbas and in Russia itself. Most of her roles were created in 2014-2015, as in this period of time this new tactic proved to be highly effective.

Maria Cipko in 4 different characters. Image Source – vesti-ukr, stopfake.org, stopfake.org, YouTube.

She had played various roles throughout her acting career, including an inhabitant of Odesa who asked Russia to intervene militarily and also scammed hundreds of people by collecting charity for the alleged victims in Donbas. She also played a lawyer from Kramatorsk, talking about a family that was allegedly murdered by Ukrainians in Kramatorsk. She had also appeared in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic public television, where she presented herself as the founder of a new fund for martyrs. We have found at least 8 different public appearances still available on the internet. Reportedly she was detained by the Ukrainian security services in 2015 and her whereabouts are currently unknown.

Maria Cipko in 4 different characters. Image Source – vesti-ukr, YouTube, YouTube, YouTube

Recently, in April 2018, allegations appeared that Cipko was captured on camera in one of protests in Latvia. As the Russian-speaking community in Latvia joined a rally to protest against the education reform which is aimed to establish that the so-called “Russian schools” teach more subjects in Latvian, a fairly similar lady was noticed in the crowd. When rumors about her appearance started to spread, Russian-language media in Latvia debunked the story, providing evidence that the woman was actually a resident of Latvia. It is a telling example and reminder which shows that such allegations should be carefully investigated, as rumors tend to spread fast causing damage to innocent people and sowing panic.

Galyna Pyshnyak (Галинa Пышняк)

Another well-known example of an actor who faked an infamous story was Galyna Pyshnyak. She appeared on the Russia’s First Channel (Первый Канал) in 2014, not long after the conflict in Ukraine broke out. She introduced herself as a refugee from Sloviansk, Ukraine, which she was forced to leave because of the alleged atrocities inflicted by the Ukrainian soldiers. She claimed to have witnessed Ukrainian soldiers crucifying a three year old in front of her mother’s eyes. This story was quickly debunked and an open source investigation revealed that she had very close ties with the Russian separatists in the area.

Galina during her interview compared with a picture of her posing with a separatist soldier. Image Source – YouTube, maydan-news

Her husband used to work for Berkut, and when the conflict in eastern Ukraine broke out he joined the Russian separatists. In one of the photos available online, her husband was found photographed together with the infamous separatist commander Motorola.

Galyna and her husband, who was serving with for the separatist forces. Image Source – maydan-news

A reporter from Novaya Gazeta (Новая газета) went to Sloviansk, investigated the story on the ground and found out that it was completely made-up. Despite the story was debunked, the First Channel, reportedly, refused to admit that the story was fake, further suggesting that the story was an act of deliberate deceit.

There have been multiple instances when various Ukrainian websites claimed to have uncovered more Galina‘s public appearances, nonetheless these are unlikely to be true. Again, various online activists are very quick to assume the identities of fairly similar people, nonetheless in a lot of instances it is very unlikely.

Yevgenya (Евгения)

Another example of a person appearing on television with different affiliations comes from Donbas. Yevgenya (last name unknown), appeared in “Humanitarian Battalion of Novorossia” YouTube reports at least twice bearing different affiliations. First time she was presented as a member of “Humanitarian Battalion of Novorossia”, while in the second report she appeared as a member of the Yekaterina Gubareva charity foundation. On both videos, she tried to look completely different: the hair and clothing were different, the facial expressions were not the same, also the mission statements were different as well.

Yevgenya in different roles. Image Source – Saracinua

There have been more appearances of her on the same YouTube channel, suggesting that she works closely with Russian separatists in Donbas.

Andrey Petkov (Андрей Петков)

The following example shows how the same footage is used by different media outlets and contain different affiliations. Three different channels have featured interviews with one Andrei Petkov, lying wounded in a hospital in the south Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv. In the three interviews, he was identified by name. He is on his back in a hospital bed, describing his experiences in the previous evening’s violence, which left him with serious wounds. On Rossia 1 national news, Petkov described himself as an ordinary citizen of Mykolaiv, who went to protest against the new Ukrainian government. Meanwhile, NTV news conducted an interview with the same Petkov, in the same hospital bed, with the same bandage on his nose, only this was an entirely different Petkov. In a contrite voice, Petkov confessed he was a German spy for a secret European organization. Finally, in an interview conducted by the The National Independent News of Crimea a third Petkov appeared, once again lying in the same hospital. This Petkov was a noble pediatric surgeon who saved the lives of over 200 infants and who returned to his native city of Mykolaiv with an indefinite sum of his own money to help organize local protesters against the new Ukrainian government.

Three different Andrey Petkovs. Image Source – Forbes

Other Potential Culprits

There are a number of websites and independent investigators who are constantly monitoring social media for similar propaganda acts. These researchers suggest a lot of different instances of potential propaganda-related acting on Russian television. Some websites reported that there are groups of professional actors who are engaging in staging propaganda scenes for the Russian-speaking media outlets.

As a lot of these websites seem to be biased and the information is unverified, all the information should be double checked before drawing conclusions. For example, here are two instances of very similar people appearing in different videos of different media outlets. Despite the striking resemblance, these images are not enough to be 100 percent sure about the identity of these persons.

Strikingly similar people from different reports, presented as different people. Image Source – 911tm

Conclusions

How old is the technique of using the same actors to instigate different propaganda scenes is unknown. This tactic is very effective and deliberately targeted at Russian-speaking television viewers. Since most of the casual Russian TV viewers are less likely to get their everyday information from different sources, especially from sources in foreign languages, a lot of them never find out that these were professionally staged and manipulated lies. In this day and age, when active communities and independent investigators are very active on the internet, it gets increasingly harder for Kremlin-funded media to get away with these scams on a large scale. Nonetheless, it must be kept in mind that not all similar looking people are the same, and some of the allegations of seeming fakes turned out to be unfounded. As the carefully staged propaganda reports are likely to be one of the most effective forms of information warfare, these professionals also make mistakes and are in many cases are caught red-handed.

By Lukas Andriukaitis, Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis, special for StopFake

Lukas Andriukaitis is Associate Analyst at Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis and a Digital Forensic Research Associate at Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

This analysis is part of the 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.

Categories: World News

World Cup Awareness: Five Things Worth Knowing About Propaganda in Russia

StopFake.org - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 13:27

Youtube

By EU vs Disinfo

Millions of Russians look forwards to welcoming visitors from across the globe to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. They will proudly show their country from its best side and share their excitement over a game that unites almost all countries in the world.

But along with the fans and the football players come the camera crews and the journalists, many of whom will be visiting Russia for the first time. Russian authorities can be expected to use the opportunity to promote a positive image of the country – as governments generally do at such occasions. However, Russia’s authorities are also likely to use this opportunity to target these journalists with some of their classic disinformation.

Increasing resilience

Different international advocacy groups have already been stepping up their communications in order to raise awareness among journalists of the problems Russian society is facing, specifically in the field of civil and human rights. This work has, for example, led to the publication of two handbooks aimed at media professionals who will be covering the World Cup in Russia: a Human Rights Guide For Reporters: 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia from Human Rights Watch, and a Handbook for Journalists Covering the 2018 World Cup in Russia, published in English by a group of Norwegian NGOs, which includes Amnesty International Norway and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

Pro-Kremlin disinformation 

While human rights are a serious issue in Russia, it is not the only area of concern for Russian government communicators and pro-Kremlin media. Based on almost three years of weekly reporting and analysis of the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign, we have identified five different kinds of problematic messages, which, in our view, Russian authorities and the media they control are likely to try to spread in connection with the FIFA World Cup.

A number of different factors turn Russia into one of the world’s most unfree and most state-controlled media environments.

“Sports shouldn’t be about politics”

Many will agree that, ideally, sports and politics should be kept separate. President Putin has made that claim on many occasions, for example in an interview with ABC News in May 2017, where he said that “sports […] has nothing to do with the political agenda, and neither should it”. This statement, however, becomes problematic in the light of the year-long campaign of politically motivated attacks to discredit international anti-doping organisations by a group of hackers, which has been linked to Russian authorities by Western governments and security experts. The most recent of these hack and accuse operations was carried out against the Swedish Sports Confederation.

“Russia has acknowledged the problems the country has had with doping”

Russian athletes were banned from competing under Russia’s flag in the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang due to systemic manipulation of anti-doping rules in Russia during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. But instead of acknowledging the problem, it is systematically presented in Kremlin-controlled media as an anti-Russian conspiracy and a “war against Russia“.

“International criticism of corruption, democracy and press freedom in Russia is exaggerated”

The numbers speak a clear language: Russia ranks as country number 135 out of 180 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. Russia is number 148, also out of 180, in the World Press Freedom Index. And Russia’s democracy score is 6.61, with 1 as most democratic and 7 as least democratic, according to Freedom House.

Disinformation is used to cover up human rights violations, to distract audiences from facts and to intimidate and misrepresent Russians human rights defenders and international NGOs as traitors who work as agents for foreign governments.

And there is a direct line between media attacks on the LGTBI community and what happened in June 2016 when Igor Lebedev, a Russian MP, praised Russian football fans for attacking other fans because, as he sees it, “[Europeans] are surprised when they see a real man looking like a man should. They are only used to seeing ‘men’ at gay parades”. This MP sits on the executive committee of the Russian football union.

“The West is not giving Russia a fair treatment”

Russian state media will insist that the problem in relations between Russia and the West is not due to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and Russia more generally breaking fundamental, internationally acknowledged rules.

Instead, Russian state TV actively promotes stories about the West having an anti-Russian fixation, the so-called “Russophobia”, and that these alleged sentiments are behind the challenges to the relationship. For example, after the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury, pro-Kremlin media claimed that the incident was in fact staged in order to create a pretext for a Western boycott of the FIFA World Cup.

In Russian state media it was claimed that the Skripal poisoning case from Salisbury is in fact an operation aimed at mobilising a boycott of the FIFA World Cup.

If one considers that international sports organisations are often labelled in Russian media as an anti-Russian “Anglo-Saxon sports mafia”, it is clear that international sports events, such as the FIFA World Cup, provide an opportunity to artificially bolster a misconception of Russia being the victim of an international conspiracy.

“And why not watch the World Cup on RT, Russia’s own English language TV channel?”

RT (Russia Today), which broadcasts in English, but also in French, Arabic and Spanish, systematically spreads incorrect information, sometimes in embarrassing ways. RT’s chief editor speaks about the channel as a military organisation and, as all Russian state media, it receives instructions from the Russian government about which editorial lines to follow.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

Manipulation: NATO Expansion Destabilizes Europe

StopFake.org - Sat, 06/02/2018 - 11:41

NATO plans to destabilize Europe  –  this was Russia’s reaction to NATO’s growing presence in the Balkans. Izvestia, RT and Moskovskyi Komsomolets all rang alarm bells with misleading statements about NATO.

Website screenshot Izvestiya

Website screenshot RT

Website screenshot MK

Russian media cranked up the anti-Nato hysteria after parliamentarians from NATO countries called on the alliance to show unity at their upcoming summit in the face of security threats coming from Russia and from terrorism.  The parliamentarians’ statement also calls for Ukrainian and Georgian integration into NATO as well as a reform plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina in preparation for NATO membership.

Website www.nato-pa.int

After the publication of this statement, Russian media began disseminating stories accusing NATO of resorting to Cold War tactics. In an interview with Izvestia Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko declared that NATO expansion should remain a thing of the past. “The NATO open door policy has not solved one problem. It only aggravated the situation both on a regional and European level. Instead of building an inclusive security system in the Balkans, joining NATO is the path to worsening relations and increased tension” Grushko said.

Website screenshot Izvestiya

On May 27 Poland’s largest web portal Onet featured a story about Poland’s push for a permanent US military base in Poland. Citing sources in Poland’s Defense Ministry, Onet wrote that in a document presented by the ministry explaining the need for such a US presence, Poland was willing to invest up to $2 billion in the future base.

“Following Russian invasions in Georgia and Ukraine, countries in Central and Eastern Europe are concerned that they are next in Moscow’s crosshairs,” the public document stated.

Poland’s Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak confirmed that Warsaw was talking with the US about a permanent military base.

Initially Russian presidential spokesman Dimitri Peskov said such plans were the “sovereign right of Poland” but later added that Moscow would react to these plans accordingly. Argumenty I fakty meanwhile made its position clear in the headline “Medicine for paranoia to the tune of 2 billion dollars. Why does Poland need a US base?”.

Website screenshot TASS

Website screenshot Argumenty I Fakty

In a predictable turn Russia’s Federation Council blamed Ukraine for everything. The chairman of the Council’s Defense and Security Committee Viktor Bondarev declared that the US base would not hurt Russia and that Poland actually wanted the base to “resolve its acute confrontation with Ukraine”. “This isn’t about Russia, Poland is not Russia’s equal in any category. But as regards Ukraine, with whom Poland is in a harsh confrontation and also Germany, which has shown aggression towards Poland in the past, a US base will raise Poland’s stature” Bondarev said.

Website screenshot TASS

Website screenshote RIA Novosti

The wave of mendacious stories about NATO destabilizing Europe continued with a May 31 story in RT claiming that Washington was transferring military equipment to Poland in vast numbers. A few days earlier Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that NATO troops were engaged in suspicious activity.

Website screenshot RT

NATO troops really are on the move towards Poland.  NATO military exercises on training grounds in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland involving some 18,000 military personnel and 19 countries are starting on June 3 and will last through June 15.

Website screenshot www.defense.gov

Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish and US officials have repeatedly talked about the upcoming military exercises. Sergei Lavrov preferred to ignore those statements, instead calling  the exercise preparations “destructive actions” of NATO at the borders of Russia, which “cause concern.”

Categories: World News