A recent report from PropOrNot,
a nonpartisan group of foreign policy, military, and technology researchers, provides evidence that 200 distinct websites, Facebook groups, and Youtube channels have been spreading baseless Russian propaganda to at least 15 million Americans.
The report draws on a wealth of reports from a wide variety of media outlets that explored the “fake news” and conspiracy theory-driven reports that flooded newsfeeds around the US during the election cycle to identify which sites merely post dishonest stories for ad revenues, and which sites actively parrot Russian propaganda.
PropOrNot found convincing ties between ZeroHedge, a popular finance blog, and Russian and Iranian state-controlled propaganda outlets.
The report examined the top referrers to ZeroHedge and analytics that suggest ZeroHedge’s administrators also operate a doomsday prepper’s website which is lousy with disinformation. These findings are consistent with the European Union’s East Strategic Communications Task Force, which works to combat Kremlin propaganda.
By simply googling excerpts from Russian state-run media outlets, the report finds a myriad of sites that parrot the Kremlin’s propaganda verbatim, often weaving the disinformation in with larger conspiracy theories.
One example of obviously false information making the rounds in the Russian-aligned web comes from Canadian journalist Christian Borys, who posted photos US F/A-18s painted like Russian jets for a training exercise. In this tweet, Borys makes it clear that this practice is “standard training” procedure, so US pilots can better simulate combat against potential foes in Russian-made jets.
The U.S is painting their F/A-18’s to match the paint schemes of Russian jets in #Syria. Standard training, but interesting nonetheless. pic.twitter.com/FVN6tMj2Ji
— Christian Borys (@ItsBorys) October 6, 2016
The innocent tweet got picked up by Russian-aligned blogs and Youtube channels with outrageous headlines suggesting the US painted these jets to bomb civilians in Syria and then blame Russia.
Numerous blogs and Youtube accounts ran headlines like “!!BOOM!! USA Caught Repainting Fighter Jets to RUSSIAN COLOURS!!!” or “IS OBAMA PLANNING DRASTIC ‘FALSE FLAG’ ATTACK IN SYRIA?”
Borys tried to refute the story with the facts surrounding the picture, but sites like RT continued to print the rumour even after the famous fact checker Snopes addressed the story and named it patently false.
Similar stories, about Hillary Clinton’s health for example, have made their way around the internet thanks to the power of Russian-run and Russian-aligned media.
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