Monday, March 6, 2017

Fake News, Russian Style

Russia is currently the world's expert and leader in fake news of all kinds.  Especially since the Maidan Revolution of Dignity in early 2014, and subsequent Russian illegal occupation of Crimea and Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine has been the subject of a deluge of disinformation and outright faked news.  

Early examples of these concern misinformation and manufactured videos regarding the fire in Odessa and the shooting down of MH17, and the totally manufactured 'crucifixion of a three-year-old boy' and 'artillery death of a 10 year old girl". 

I subscribe to the weekly Disinformation Review, which comes every Thursday from East Stratcom Task Force with key examples and reviews of pro-Kremlin lies and disinformation of the week. The review focuses on key messages carried in international media which have been identified as providing a partial, distorted or false view or interpretation and/or spreading key pro-Kremlin messaging. It also carries a link to a complete compilation of all cases reported by their network.  Here are some of the top stories from the past few weeks.  If you click on each link, it takes about 2 minutes to read the entire article.

To sign up for this newsletter, please click here: http://eepurl.com/bN1ub5

Good Russia


Russia is good, the West is evil. So, on Russian state TV, we were told by the Deputy Chairman of the State Duma that Russia respects international law, that it is friendly towards its neighbours, and that it is those neighbours who are the aggressive ones, not Russia. To be fair, it was said in the same show that Russia might have to strike Europe pre-emptively if NATO keep putting troops into the Baltic countries. But no mention was made of Russia violating international law through its illegal actions in Ukraine, annexing Crimea among other things.

In the same show, it was stated that Donbass is part of Russia and that it is being bombed by European troops on a daily basis. Of course, no evidence was presented for these European troops – there are none.

The Evil West

One of the common techniques of the disinformation campaign is to use outright falsifications. And many examples of the technique presented themselves this week. So we saw for example a Bulgarian story claiming that EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn stated that Bulgaria will cease to exist as a nation within 40 years (http://bit.ly/2lyZgEu) – he said no such thing. We saw a Czech outlet saying Commission President Juncker thinks the EU will fall apart during the Brexit negotiations (http://bit.ly/2lyT4fP) - something he has not stated. And we saw Europe and the West accused on Russian state TV of wanting to destroy both Russia and Ukraine (http://bit.ly/2m3uPaK), of starting the Maidan protests in 2014 (http://bit.ly/2mhtkS5), and of aiming to loot Ukraine (http://bit.ly/2l3eYEI) - even of peoples organs. Again, needless to say, all untrue.

Another continuing trend this week was the depiction of refugees and migrants as dangerous. A Czech outlet reported that migrants had sexually harassed people in Frankfurt on New Year's Eve (http://bit.ly/2m3KCD6) - information that was based on false testimonies and subsequently deleted from the original report but that is still spreading. A cooperation agreement between the Czech, Romanian and German armies was explained as an effort by Germany to protect itself against migrants by another Czech outlet (http://bit.ly/2kDZNFM).

Also the Swedish city of Malmö was depicted in a very negative way on Russian state TV (http://bit.ly/2lAw5l3) misrepresenting unemployment numbers as at 63% (that is actually the employment figures of the city) and murder rates over the last year exaggerated up from 12 to 50. The piece also covered the old disinformation story of no-go zones in Sweden (http://bzfd.it/2m8uqQU).

Fabricated moral collapse

We learned from Russian state TV that Brussels is a dangerous place to live and that thousands - yes, literally thousands - of women are sexually assaulted on the streets on a daily basis http://bit.ly/2kKFx1O.

Repeating already debunked disinformation, we read again that thousands of tanks are flowing into Europe to threaten Russia http://bit.ly/2juL2zW; and that the EU's moral collapse continues, this week with the banning of baptism http://bit.ly/2jvytnU.

Another old and unfounded claim was repeated, namely that without Russian control of the country, Ukraine will embrace Nazism and fascism http://bit.ly/2kN9aCZ. There are no facts to support those claims. In fact, the human rights situation in the country was better before the Russian forces entered Ukrainian territory uninvited http://bit.ly/1RolEeE. Russian state TV also repeated the usual disinformation that a coup took place in Ukraine in 2014 http://bit.ly/2kbMRDO. In support of the facts on the ground, we recall the statements from the OSCE that the elections were conducted in a democratic manner http://bit.ly/2eWWBAV. 
 
The amount of hate-speech on Russian state TV debates has significantly risen. Almost every mention of Ukraine we see (and there were a lot of them in the last days) is accompanied by the adjective “nazi” or the noun “coup” - once again ignoring the reality that the Revolution of Dignity was no coup, and that Ukraine does not have nazi parties in the Parliament. In one show, there were open calls for a violent purge of the Ukrainian authorities (http://bit.ly/2lIEZd4; you will find the precise timecodes for the critical quotes in the table).

We saw again the myth that we debunked last week, that Ukraine is provoking the violence in Donbass (http://bit.ly/2lApN5g), and doing it just to get the attention of the new US President’s administration (http://bit.ly/2lHk0aB), or to impose martial law and abolish freedom of speech (http://bit.ly/2kD2Xpl). We saw absurd distortions of President Poroshenko’s interview, claiming that the head of the Ukrainian state has called for the lifting of sanctions against Russia (http://bit.ly/2kZ5k6X). We also saw inventions that the Ukrainian army is ready to join the pro-Russian “separatists” (http://bit.ly/2kZwgDn).

There was plenty of disinformation about Ukraine again during the last week. One "documentary" about Eastern Ukraine claimed that the Russian presence in the area was fabricated by the Western media. Russian state TV show Vremya Pokazhet focused on the relationship between Russia and Ukraine, and claimed that Russia had not seized Ukrainian territory, that Russia is not fighting in Ukraine and that Russia is in fact not present in Ukraine at all (http://bit.ly/2js6I3k). Of course, these claims have all been refuted before - even by President Putin himself (http://bit.ly/1kC94ch).

In another TV show, it was explained that Russia did indeed annex Crimea, but only to save the peninsula from impending destruction (http://bit.ly/2jh7cXG). The same disinformation was aired by Czech pro-Kremlin outlet Protiproud, which re-used the unsubstantiated allegations around genocide of Russian speakers (http://bit.ly/2iDpbsQ).

Avdiivka is on territory that should be under the full control of the Ukrainian army, according to the line of conflict stipulated in the Minsk Agreements. On the morning Sunday 29 January, the Ukrainian army reported that Russian-backed militants had begun shelling their positions there. The OSCE special monitoring mission positioned in the city flagged up hundreds of ceasefire violations in both directions of the front. Journalists reported that the shelling came from Russian-backed "separatists" (herehereand here).
 
But Russian state media immediately started denying any Russian role in the newest escalation. During the talk show "Vremya pokazhet", we heard that there are no Russian troops on the ground - not only around Avdiivka, but also in the whole territory of Ukraine (http://bit.ly/2leYlGS). Later in the same show it was claimed that a "secret plan" of the Ukrainian government is being realized, aimed at ethnic cleansing of Donbas. The next day, we heard in the same show that actually it is European humanists and their friends from the US who are responsible for the deaths in Avdiivka (http://bit.ly/2jSO1qY) – not those doing the shelling.
 
Another show, "Mesto vstrechi", blamed Kyiv for the humanitarian catastrophe in Avdiivka (http://bit.ly/2jT5kba).  One of the speakers accused President Poroshenko of provoking the conflict in order to divert the attention of Europeans away from the "fact" that he is stealing the gas flowing from Russia to Europe. Sergei Zheleznyak, Kremlin-loyal MP of the Duma, stated in "Pervaya studia" that Poroshenko provoked the hostilities in order to receive financial help from the West, as he had lost a huge investment in backing Hillary Clinton (http://bit.ly/2kyOFah). Lenta.ru suggested that Ukraine provoked the fighting to test the loyalty of the new American administration (http://bit.ly/2lfiR9t).
 
President Putin has also made multiple accusations: that Ukraine provoked the renewed violence in the east of the country in order to pretend to be a victim and receive money from the West; to establish a dialogue with the new US administration (after Ukraine supported the losing candidate); because the government needs to regain the people's support; and because Ukraine is not ready to implement the Minsk agreements.

10 comments:

  1. Now I understand where Trump gets his ideas for "creative news" and "alternative facts." I wonder what the Russians have on him?

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    1. Given both Trump and the KGB M.O., I am sure they have plenty of videos. More importantly are the cash connections which need to be traced down as the people he owes money to use knees and heads as collateral. The collusion between Trump and Russia in the release of HRC/DNC emails with softening of the Republican (official) stance on arming Ukraine and the potential of dropping sanctions is another area. If Trump does not play ball, the Russians just throw this stuff out to the FBI/CIA.

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  2. This is a scary time. The outcome is hard to predict - but it doesn't look good. North Korea posturing with nuclear capability, India and Pakistan a hair trigger apart, religious warfare throughout the middle east, Putin aggressively on the move, a paranoid, unhinged narcissist in the White House, climate change reaching critical mass, population continuing to explode and La La Land not getting best picture at the Academy Award....
    As Yellowdog granny would say: we're fucked
    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. Yellow Dog Granny does have a way with words, doesn't she? Before Trump, it felt like 1913 with Nucs. Now...the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty will be between Lavrov and Tillerson. Time to move to the Falkland Islands.

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  3. with all the assassinations in Russia you would think someone would have found a way to get rid of Putin...
    and thanks guys..I like having a way with words..

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    1. The guys ordering the assassinations rarely get bumped off, Haven't you noticed? And keep those words coming.

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  4. That's just scary. Lately I've been wondering whether the journalists here are making stuff up, purposely trying to confuse us, or simply misinformed and too lazy to fact-check. Over the past two days we've seen the same incident reported twice, with two completely different and opposing sets of facts. The incidents here are a whole lot less horrifying than over there, but I still have to wonder if it's the thin edge of the wedge.

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    1. We truly are in a post-fact world and yes it is very frightening. Even if we ignore seemingly fake news, it still affects our attitude

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