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Struggle against fake information about events in Ukraine
Updated: 5 hours 11 min ago

Stalin Saved Crimean Tatars: StopFakeNews with Marko Suprun (No. 286)

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 09:10

Fake: Survey shows Ukrainians liked living in the USSR. Crimean Tatars owe Stalin. Ukraine may lose several more regions.

Сообщение Stalin Saved Crimean Tatars: StopFakeNews with Marko Suprun (No. 286) появились сначала на StopFake.

Categories: World News

Infodemic in Italy: A Parliamentary intelligence committee lays bare Russian and Chinese interference

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 17:58
By Julia Casado from Pixabay

By Francesco Bechis, for CEPA

It’s official: China and Russia used the covid-19 pandemic to propagate and spread disinformation in Italy, exploiting the emergency for their own interests, according to Copasir, the Parliamentary committee overseeing the intelligence services. The bipartisan report, authored by Enrico Borghi of the Democratic Party (Pd), draws on classified material provided by Italian government agencies. 

In the past three months, Russia and China have transformed Italy into a decisive battleground for Europe’s geopolitical hegemony. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping sent tons of aid and dozens of doctors to Italy, together with a massive and unprecedented propaganda campaign, both on official and party channels and on social media. The result: democracy has gone out of fashion. A recent opinion poll shows 73% of Italians believe that liberal democracies failed the covid-19 test. 

Russia and China played on the same field, but with different strategies. Russia took the leading role, the report says. The Kremlin was already entrenched in Italy’s politics and media. The crisis made its interference stronger and more effective. The report highlights the role of the Sputnik agency in disseminating questionable content and gives a silver medal for the state-run broadcaster RT. The committee describes how both outlets amplified news from Russian sources relating to Italy, with the goal of increasing confusion and panic, amplifying “public order problems in supermarkets” and also with references to migration. As the report explains, Russian disinformation campaigns “focus mainly on conspiracy theories to exploit the virus for their own purposes.” The goal, says the committee’s chairman, Raffaele Volpi of the Northern League, was “to create distrust in Western governments, in their health systems and in the scientific sector.”

The authorities in Beijing have taken a different approach. In official media and on social networks they praised the Chinese government’s response to the covid-19 crisis. They also praised the love of Italians for the Chinese Communist Party. Even at the cost of making everything up. Exemplary in this regard, the report says, was the promotion of the manipulated “Thanks, China!” video on Twitter by the foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying.

In both cases the goal is to show that authoritarian regimes beat the virus and democracies do not. Borghi notes that experience in South Korea and Germany demonstrates that democracies organize themselves better, “because they guarantee better health results and less decreases in freedoms.” 

By Francesco Bechis, for CEPA

Francesco Bechis is a journalist at Formiche.

Common Crisis is a CEPA analytical series on the implications of COVID-19 for the transatlantic relationship. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis. 

Сообщение Infodemic in Italy: A Parliamentary intelligence committee lays bare Russian and Chinese interference появились сначала на StopFake.

Categories: World News

MIGs in Libya, contradicting Moscow’s denials

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 20:34
LIBYA — A picture released by the U.S. AFRICOM, the US Africa Command responsible for military relations with nations and regional organisations in Africa, on May 26, 2020 reportedly shows a Russian Mig-29 Fulcrum jet flying over Libya

By Polygraph

Andrey Krasov
deputy chair of the Russian State Duma’s Defense Committee

“[This is] yet another American scary tale. This is fake and disinformation in the spirit of previous American administrations.” (Responding to U.S. military reports that Russia deployed fighter jets to Libya.)
Source: Regnum.ru, May 26, 2020
FALSE

On May 26, the U.S. Army Africa Command (AFRICOM) said Russia had sent military aircraft to Libya to aid its state-sponsored private military contractors working on behalf of the Libyan National Army (LNA), which is fighting against the United Nations-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

“The Russian fighter aircraft arrived in Libya from an airbase in Russia after transiting Syria where it is assessed they were repainted to camouflage their Russian origin,” the U.S. statement said.

AFRICOM did not specify what kind of aircraft were sent or how many, but the U.S. provided images showing various Russian fighter and attack jets in the air and parked at Libya’s al-Jufrah airfield.

On May 27, however, the Pentagon subsequently claimed that Russia had sent about 14 military planes to Libya.

NEWS: Russia deploys military fighter aircraft to Libya
—–
"For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now." – Gen. Townsend
Release: https://t.co/HpLdwUJxcr
Photos: https://t.co/raTal1LKPa pic.twitter.com/dVtsWKPYZ5

— US AFRICOM (@USAfricaCommand) May 26, 2020

Russia denied the reports, with several top lawmakers issuing strong statements, while neither the Kremlin nor the defense ministry responded by the time of this reporting.

“[This is] yet another American scary tale. This is fake and disinformation in the spirit of previous American administrations,” said Andrey Krasov, deputy chair of Russian Duma Defense Committee.

The claim is false.

Reports about Russia air assets going to Libya appeared a week before the AFRICOM’s statement. On May 21, Fathi Bashagha, the GNA’s security chief in Tripoli, told Bloomberg News that “at least six MiG 29s and two Sukhoi 24s had flown into the east from the Russian-controlled Hmeimim Air Base in Syria, escorted by two Su-35 Russian air force jets.”

According to the GNA, six MiG 29s and two Sukhoi 24s have been flown into eastern Libya from the Russian-controlled Hmeimim Air Base in Syria, escorted by two SU-35 Russian Airforce jets. If true this would represent a deeper – and very serious – internationalising of the war.

— Airwars (@airwars) May 21, 2020

Some analysts questioned Bashagha’s claim.

Commenting on the reported deployment of Russian military aircraft to Libya in his blog, The Aviationist, Rome-based freelance journalist David Cenciotti wrote that he was “not sure this actually happened, at least not the way it has been reported.”

However, in an update to his May 21 blog entry, Cenciotti reported that a satellite image showing one MiG-29 being towed at Al Jufra Air Base had confirmed the presence of at least one such Russian fighter jet in Libya. On May 26, The Aviationist discussed the impact of this development on the power balance in Libya.

On May 21, another confirmation came from Jeffrey Bardin, a U.S. Air Force veteran and a cyber intelligence analyst, who posted on LinkedIn a satellite image of the al-Jawfah airbase, showing “the presence of a MiG-29 fighter and a number of other fighters.”

The Drive, a website that covers military affairs and cars, reported on May 2126 and 27 the presence of multiple Russian fighter jets on the airbase in the LNA-controlled territory. The site said the jets “were indeed at Russia’s air base in western Syria just days before the MiG-29 was spotted in Libya.”

Airwars.org, a U.K.-based military aviation watchdog, has been monitoring this situation since May 20, Chris Woods, the website’s director, told Polygraph.info.

“It’s reasonable to conclude that fighter aircraft have recently been supplied to the LNA by Russia,” Woods said. “What remains unclear is whether those aircraft will be flown by mercenaries or by pilots with the Russian air force.”

On May 26, the LNA’s Army Twitter account also retweeted the AFRICOM’s report about the deployment of the Russian aircraft, without denying it.

#Turkey’s involvement by sending terrorists to #Libya must and well force us and the countries that truly fight terror to react between the silence of the international community as we see with clear evidence of #ISIS and #AlQeada fighting for the expired #GNA https://t.co/PtXMp2diI0

— M.LNA (@LNA2019M) May 26, 2020

According to the Russian state-owned news agency Sputnik, an LNA representative speaking on Al Arabiya TV called AFRICOM’s statements about the arrival of Russian military aircraft in Libya “strange.” However, there was no indication the LNA representative denied it had happened.

The United Nations imposed Arms embargo on Libya in 2011.

The civil war in Libya is becoming “increasingly internationalized,” Airwars.org’s Chris Woods said. On one side, Turkey is providing military support to the Tripoli-based GNA; on the other, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia are backing the LNA forces lead by Khalifa Haftar.

Russia has denied involvement in Libya, but a recently leaked U.N. report said Moscow has deployed about 1,200 mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group to strengthen Haftar’s forces.

Activists in Bani Walid town release photos of what they say a group of Wagner mercenaries driving in the town after fleeing the battlefield in south #Tripoli pic.twitter.com/k9b2S4LnQh

— The Libya Observer (@Lyobserver) May 23, 2020

Central Asian sources report that Wagner has been actively recruiting mercenaries in war-impoverished Syria “using the same tactics as ISIS” – promising big rewards but instead using the new recruits as cannon fodder.

Libya has been in turmoil for the last nine years. The UN estimates that hundreds of civilians have been killed and thousands injured, while millions have reportedly been forcibly displaced and are in dire need of humanitarian aid.

By Polygraph

Сообщение MIGs in Libya, contradicting Moscow’s denials появились сначала на StopFake.

Categories: World News

Russian news site distorts U.S. coronavirus poll

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 20:21
Fingertip-sized patches with dissolvable microscopic needles, a potential COVID-19 vaccine, are seen at the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

By Polygraph

News Front
a pro-Kremlin news site

“Every fourth American is against taking anti-COVID-19 vaccine.”
Source: News Front, May 21, 2020
FALSE

On May 21, the pro-Kremlin news site News Front covered a survey commissioned by Reuters.

The News Front story, published in Russian, was headlined “Every fourth American is against taking anti-COVID-19 vaccine.”

The headline is false.

News Front downplayed findings showing support for a coronavirus vaccine in the survey, which polled 4,428 U.S. adults between May 13 and May 19.

The News Front story equated lack of interest in a vaccine with opposition. “While pharmaceutical corporations are involved in a race for the development of a vaccine against the coronavirus, it has transpired that the fourth of Americans are not interested in it,” it stated.

In fact, that characterization muddies the results as reported by Reuters, which said that 14% of those surveyed “said they were not at all interested in taking a vaccine, and 10% said they were not very interested. Another 11% were unsure.”

Being uninterested or uncertain does not necessarily indicate resistance. The survey showed majority support for a coronavirus vaccine and strong support for vaccinations that have worked against other diseases.

AstraZeneca is awaiting early stage clinical results of its potential COVID-19 vaccine being developed with Oxford University. Having received over $1 billion from the U.S., the British drugmaker said it can deliver a billion doses if tests are successful https://t.co/aA0H9cYu8I pic.twitter.com/Z2xCSylygE

— Reuters (@Reuters) May 21, 2020

Not quite two-thirds of the respondents in the Reuters poll said they were “very” or “somewhat” interested in a coronavirus vaccine, while 84% said they believe in the safety of vaccines for diseases like the measles, both for adults and children.

Furthermore, 29% of those who indicated they were “not very” interested in taking a coronavirus vaccine said that would change if the vaccine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

One expert told Reuters the number of respondents who said they were “very” or “somewhat” interested in a coronavirus vaccine was lower than he expected.

“I would have expected somewhere around 75 percent,” William Schaffner, an infectious disease and vaccine expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, told the news agency.

However, Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told Reuters that a combination of widespread disinformation about vaccines and mixed signals from authorities were the reason for the lower-than-expected interest in a coronavirus vaccine.

“It’s not surprising a significant percentage of Americans are not going to take the vaccine because of the terrible messaging we’ve had, the absence of a communication plan around the vaccine and this very aggressive anti-vaccine movement,” said Hotez, who is working on a vaccine.

Michael Chertoff, who is helping advise DC's @MayorBowser reopening efforts, says schools should not reopen for in-person learning until a #COVID vaccine.

How would that work? WATCH → pic.twitter.com/wJWrVSpPY8

— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) May 24, 2020

The News Front article also mistakenly reported that at least 70% of Americans would need to be vaccinated to resist the virus and prevent its spread.

In fact, according to Reuters, experts estimate that 70% of Americans “would need to be immune through a vaccine or prior infection” to achieve what is known as “herd immunity,” where a population is resistant to the virus.

News Front is a pro-Kremlin outlet with a record of publishing conspiratorial stories, including other fake news about the coronavirus. The EU-funded fact-checking site EUvsDisInfo has debunked stories by NewsFront claiming traditional medicine can cure COVID-19 and that the coronavirus vaccine is aimed at controlling world population.

By Polygraph

Сообщение Russian news site distorts U.S. coronavirus poll появились сначала на StopFake.

Categories: World News

Back to basics: Ukraine, revisionism, and Russophobia

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 20:04

By EU vs Disinfo

As the world cautiously begins to adjust to the new realities of post-quarantine life, the pro-Kremlin media is adjusting as well – and returning to familiar territory.

That’s not to say that we’ve seen the last of coronavirus-related disinformation – far from it. COVID-19 will continue to affect life around the world for the foreseeable future, with a potential second wave anticipated in the coming months. Scientists are still racing to find a viable cure. In this context, don’t expect to see mis- or disinformation about the coronavirus disappear – it will simply fade into the background and become yet another persistent bug in our information landscape, like climate change denialism and anti-migrant fearmongering. If past is any indication, the pro-Kremlin media will continue opportunistically exploiting conspiracy theories and other disinformation narratives around COVID-19, undermining the EUattacking the US or “Western elites”, or fomenting public fear and distrust. Other disinformation cases this week foreshadow which narratives are likely to endure in the months ahead: namely George Soros and Bill Gates anti-vax conspiracy theories, claims that non-capitalist countries are better able to handle crises, and nonsensical obfuscation like that “Western elites” or a global “Deep State” are behind the pandemic, or that COVID-19 is a US bioweapon. Attacking Western media that report critically on the Kremlin’s handling of the pandemic is also a tactic that will likely persist.

Bad Ukraine

But this week pro-Kremlin disinformation also returned to one of its favourite punching bags: Ukraine. Besides regurgitating old tropes – like that Euromaidan was an “ultranationalist pro-Western coup”, that Crimea was not annexed, and that the EU is exploiting Ukraine – pro-Kremlin outlets also got newly creative in their attacks against the country that is still facing conflict six years after the illegal annexation of Crimea. Latching on to an OSCE report from May 9th that recorded the injury of four children in eastern Ukraine – but didn’t ascribe responsibility to any party – the pro-Kremlin media took attribution into its own hands and accused the Ukrainian army of deliberately firing at children. Ukrainian soldiers were also baselessly accused of raping an American photojournalist in Donbas. Other cases sought to undermine the credibility of the Ukrainian government and President Zelenskyy, suggesting that Ukraine is planning to attack Donbas and sabotage peace talks, that hunger riots are breaking out in the country, and that migrant workers are being driven to Donbas in order to get them back to Europe. And a recurring narrative remains that Ukraine is a puppet of the US, which is trying to gain control of Crimea and control political appointments in Ukraine. The CIA is in on it too, of course: ordering Zelenskyy to extend sanctions and even block access to Russian social networks (in fact, this decision was made by Ukraine’s National Security Council, for pretty understandable reasons).

The Kremlin’s Victory Day Angst

With May 9th being Victory Day – one of Russia’s most prized national holidays, marking the surrender of Nazi Germany and Soviet takeover of Berlin – the attacks on Ukraine and other “Russophobic” countries were seamlessly blended with another pro-Kremlin disinformation specialty: historical revisionism. Ukraine was accused of suppressing Victory Day celebrations in a “Russophobic” attack on historical memory, national “devaluation”, and disrespect of veterans. Poland and the Baltics were charged with seeking to minimise the USSR’s victory over Nazism (as was the Western media writ large). Meanwhile, the Belarusian opposition allegedly tried to disrupt the Victory Day parade with funding from the US State Department. On the topic of World War II, pro-Kremlin outlets are stubbornly sticking to the classic deflection tactic of disinformation: “accuse others of what they accuse you”. And so it turns out that the West is supposedly guilty of historical revisionism and abdication of truth by drawing attention to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. That Pact, in case anyone needs reminding, divided Europe into Nazi and Soviet spheres of influences and paved the way for five decades of communist totalitarian rule throughout eastern Europe. If only the Kremlin could acknowledge – even once! – the untold pain and suffering wrought by that disastrous pact and its secret protocols. Unfortunately, history has taught us not to hold our breath.

By EU vs Disinfo

Сообщение Back to basics: Ukraine, revisionism, and Russophobia появились сначала на StopFake.

Categories: World News

Kremlin Watch Briefing: EU should launch a team to investigate Chinese disinformation

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 19:25
NEW REPORT Russian battles over historical narratives: the case of Prague’s Konev statue

The recent escalation in relations between the Czech Republic and Russia, relating to the removal of a Marshal Konev statue, is just another case of Russia waging a “battle” with a post-Communist country over historical narratives. The Kremlin has, for a long time, sought to (re)interpret 20th-century history, in particular WWII. 

The removal of a Bronze Soldier monument in Tallinn (in 2007) is often seen as the first of the clashes regarding historical narratives. Since then, these disputes have intensified and become more frequent. Furthermore, Russia has used more sophisticated and aggressive methods “to promote” its own historical narratives. 

Below, we not only provide some basic facts and a timeline documenting the recent escalation of the conflict around the removal of the Marshal Konev statue, but also an overview of similar historical disputes between Russian and other post-Communist countries. We conclude with a set of recommendations that the Czech authorities should undertake. These recommendations are rather universal and, as such, could be applied by any other state that finds itself in a situation similar to that of the Czech Republic.

READ THE FULL REPORT

Topics of the Week

The EU should launch a specialized task force to investigate and counter Chinese disinformation.

Developments in U.S.-Russia nuclear relations: The uncertain future of START.

Kremlin’s Current Narrative: The Kremlin rejects latest indications of Moscow’s military support to Haftar’s Libyan National Army.

Good Old Soviet Joke

Vladimir Putin issued a plan for the new economy. The goal? Make people rich and happy. List of people attached.

Policy & Research News Experts call for a European task force to counter Chinese disinfo

The Chinese use of disinformation to advance its foreign policy goals and influence the West had clearly been highlighted during the pandemic crises, as the EEAS and DHS concluded, and needs to be countered by immediate and firm response, Jakub Janda and Nathalie Vogel (European Values Center for Security Policy), write.

Chinese State propaganda displayed its disinformation tools to influence foreign audiences perception of the pandemic, in order to belittle its magnitude and to deny Chinese responsibilities, following a disinfo playbook that looks akin to the Russian one. Chinese pressures weren’t limited to the info-war operations but included other offensive measures to exert pressure, as already briefed here.

Relations between the EU and China will be the core of the upcoming geostrategic agenda, and given the already clear asymmetric offensive, China is adopting to weaken Europe, that includes a massive use of disinformation, a special task force, analogous to the EEAS East Stratcom Task Force set following Russia invasion of Ukraine, to counter Chinese disinformation is needed, experts say. “The EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, should launch this EEAS task force immediately”, Kalensky (Atlantic Council DFRlab) suggests. It should consist of at least 15 specialists on Chinese disinformation, and be producing weekly analysis to monitor Chinese disinfo to raise awareness among the public, and inform decision-makers. 

China borrows Kremlin playbook, advancing high-stakes novel offensive

Amidst pandemic, Russia and China boosted their asymmetric offensive towards the West, in a coordinated effort that now sees the Chinese, after borrowing the traditional Kremlin playbook, pushing it with a renewed, independent proactiveness. The alarm is launched by a Brookings Institution’s analysis, whose findings are largely shared in the experts’ community.

The Chinese Communist Party long-term goals to weaken the Transatlantic ties were so far exerted through economic pressure and strategically motivated investments abroad, in addition to an info-war far less noted than the traditionally threatening Russian one. The pandemic created a tactical coincidence of interest in the domain of info-war between Russia and China, but Beijing is now abandoning its low profile and starting to advance its goals autonomously.

Among the reasons behind this changed Chinese posture is the apparent impunity of malicious actors in using disinformation to manipulate the public, and the incentive provided by the gain of the desired goal in doing so – as occurred in the purported watering down of the EEAS report on COVID disinfo, following Chinese pressure, the Brookings analysis stresses.

This novel Chinese stance requires an urgent and tailored response, experts say, suggesting the establishment of an ad hoc task force.

US Developments Developments in U.S.-Russia nuclear relations

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is the only remaining arms treaty between Russia and the United States. According to an article in Defense News It expires on February 5 if it is not renewed by the United States, just over two weeks after America’s next president will be inaugurated. Although Russia has offered to extend the agreement, Trump is holding out because he believes that China should have to join the treaty as well. While Russia appears to agree that a deal including China is necessary, this will obviously be a complicated task, given both the tight time-table and pandemic chaos. In addition, China seems unwilling to even consider an agreement.

If the deal were to end, it would be much more difficult for the U.S. to monitor Russia’s nuclear activities. However, Trump does not seem very concerned with this. When announcing that he would not be renewing the Open Skies Treaty, which allows the U.S. and Russia to conduct overhead surveillance, he cited numerous violations of the treaty by the Kremlin. President Trump may feel the same way about START as well. To make matters more complicated, Trump has suggested that the United States may begin nuclear testing again. The U.S. has not conducted a nuclear test since 1992. The testing would be in response to alleged small-scale nuclear testing by both Moscow and Beijing, however, there is no publicly available evidence of this. The coming months will be very important in determining the next 5 years of nuclear cooperation between the United States and Russia.

American coronavirus aid reaches Russia

This week, the first load of American COVID-19 aid arrived in Russia. This delivery included 50 of 200 promised ventilators along with other medical supplies. Both Russian and American diplomats are touting the joint aid as an example of U.S-Russia cooperation, with the Russian Foreign Ministry declaring the aid as a “sincere humanitarian gesture.” Russia is in particularly desperate need of ventilators after having to recall a very common model due to safety concerns. However, the politicization of the aid continues. The Kremlin recently claimed that its Direct Investment Fund covered the costs of equipment sent to the U.S. in April, while the United States claims it was forced to foot the bill. Additionally, while the Russian government banned the operation of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on Russian soil in 2012, it was happy to accept USAID medial equipment as “a return act of good will.”

Kremlin’s Current Narrative The Kremlin rejects latest indications of Moscow’s military support to Haftar

On May 21, at least eight Soviet-era warplanes reportedly flew from the Russian-controlled Hmeimim Air Base in Syria into the territory under the control of General Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya. If confirmed, it would signal the Kremlin’s readiness to step up its military support for Gen Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), in what risks to escalate into a full-scale proxy war on Libya’s battleground. Earlier this month, Reuters read a UN report revealing the presence in Libya of some 1,200 private military contractors from the Russian paramilitary organisation known as Wagner Group.

The Wagner Group is seen as close to Vladimir Putin and the organisation has been tied to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the notorious financier behind the Saint Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency – more commonly known under the infamous name of “Troll Factory”. Prigozhin was reported to finance the Wagner Group’s current operations in both Syria and Africa.

The Russian government has consistently denied providing military support to Gen Haftar, with the Kremlin’s outlets obviously aligning with this claim. On RIA, the report exposing the presence of Wagner Group mercenaries is dismissed as full of “mistakes and deliberate falsifications … unverified or clearly fabricated data aimed at discrediting Russia”. Similarly, according to RT, the warplanes were delivered to Gen Haftar through unspecified “foreign support”. Nowhere on the various outlets is the Kremlin explicitly linked to the LNA, and Russia is never named among the governments that support Haftar’s offensive. From this perspective, the Kremlin is portrayed exclusively as a constructive force committed to a peaceful settlement of the war in Libya.

Meanwhile, Haftar is often described as a benevolent man capable of “noble gesture[s]”. In the propaganda movie titled “Shugalei”, released in April and available on RT’s Youtube channel, Haftar is portrayed as a patriotic and sensible general who holds off from forcing his way into Tripoli because he fears for the citizen’s safety.

Kremlin Watch Reading Suggestion Deception, Disinformation, and Strategic Communications: How One Interagency Group Made a Major Difference

By Fletcher Schoen and Christopher J. Lamb

This study published by the Institute for National Strategic Studies examines the success of the Active Measures Working Group, a part-time U.S. Government interagency committee established in the 1980s to counter Soviet disinformation. Even though interagency committees are commonly criticized as ineffective, the Active Measures Working Group became the U.S. Government’s body of expertise on disinformation and was highly regarded in both Congress and the executive branch. It succeeded in exposing Soviet covert operations and raising the political cost of future operations by shedding light on the prevalence of disinformation globally.

The group successfully moved the majority of the U.S. national security bureaucracy towards seeing Soviet disinformation as deleterious to U.S. interests. The reports produced by the group and their impact far exceeded the costs of manning the group, and the group’s activities drove the Soviet cost of producing disinformation up to an unsustainable level. Such an effective working group cannot be easily replicated for several reasons, and the current national security system is not conducive to small interagency group success. The study highlights how the Active Measures Working Group was an exceptional case, not the rule. Effective strategic communications, deep and diverse expertise from multiple organizations and exceptional personnel with a high level of cohesion and trust all contributed to the group’s success.

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

Сообщение Kremlin Watch Briefing: EU should launch a team to investigate Chinese disinformation появились сначала на StopFake.

Categories: World News

One threat, one presence: A strategy for NATO’s Eastern flank

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 13:00

By LTG (Ret.) Ben Hodges, Janusz Bugajski, COL (Ret.) Ray Wojcik, Carsten Schmiedl, for CEPA

NATO’s Eastern Flank stretches from the Arctic to the Caucasus and includes the Baltic Sea and Black Sea littorals. It is the longest and perhaps the most vulnerable sector of the Alliance and is exposed daily to military probing, subversion, disinformation, cyberattacks, and overt diplomatic and economic pressure by the Kremlin. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Alliance prioritized the Baltic Sea region and deployed “enhanced Forward Presence” (eFP) Battle Groups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland while settling for “tailored Forward Presence” (tFP) in the Black Sea region. This tiered approach to deterrence capabilities created a degree of incoherence along the Eastern Flank, exposing NATO to continued aggressive probing from Russia.

In One Flank, One Threat, One Presence: A Strategy for NATO’s Eastern Flank,”  authors LTG (Ret.) Ben HodgesJanusz BugajskiCOL (Ret.) Ray Wojcik, and Carsten Schmiedl offer substantive, practice recommendations for comprehensive Eastern Flank strategy. In order to curtail Moscow’s revisionist objective to create a neo-imperial sphere of influence, they argue that NATO should remove any asymmetries in its current Eastern Flank posture by enhancing its role in the wider Black Sea region in all domains; strengthening deterrence and defense capabilities in the Baltic Sea region; and adopting a common threat assessment to enable the rapid political and military reactions necessary to deter Moscow’s probing and outright aggression.

By LTG (Ret.) Ben Hodges, Janusz Bugajski, COL (Ret.) Ray Wojcik, Carsten Schmiedl, for CEPA

Сообщение One threat, one presence: A strategy for NATO’s Eastern flank появились сначала на StopFake.

Categories: World News

New study looks at the role of pro-Kremlin bots in spreading disinformation about COVID-19

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 12:44

By NATO StratCom COE

Download publication file (8.83 MB)

New quarterly Robotrolling report has been published, delving into the role of pro-Kremlin bots in spreading disinformation about COVID-19 throughout March. In our analysis, we identify striking differences between how bots engaged with COVID-19 in the Russian- and English-language information spaces.

Bot activity this quarter fixated on the global COVID-19 pandemic, with conversations about the virus captured by our dataset peaking in March. Pro-Kremlin social media accounts amplified a false story, originally shared by a Russian politician, that Poland closed its airspace to Russian planes delivering humanitarian aid to Italy. Though we found that bots commanded the Russian-language conversations about COVID-19, their content was no more viral than examples from recent Robotrolling reports.

Throughout this quarter, we observed a considerable reduction in both the number of unique users and volume of messages. Inauthentic English- and Russian-language activity experienced a similar decline. Since late March, Russian-language activity on Twitter and on VK has been abnormally low.
On VK, the conversation about NATO in the Baltics and Poland is currently being conducted in groups with regional or nationalist profiles. Notably, the large Russian state-run media outlets we frequently observe on the platform have engaged far less with the subject in recent months. Additionally, we observed a halving of posts from bot accounts this quarter.

Robotrolling is a quarterly report by the NATO StratCom COE about automation in social media that has been published since 2017. 

Robotroling 2020/1

Robotrolling 2019/1
Robotrolling 2019/2
Robotrolling 2019/3
Robotrolling 2019/4

Robotrolling 2018/1
Robotrolling 2018/2
Robotrolling 2018/3
Robotrolling 2018/4

Robotrolling 2017/1
Robotrolling 2017/2

By NATO StratCom COE

Сообщение New study looks at the role of pro-Kremlin bots in spreading disinformation about COVID-19 появились сначала на StopFake.

Categories: World News

New reports focus on Western Balkan information environment

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 12:38

By NATO StratCom COE

We have published three new reports with a focus on Russia’s footprint in the Western Balkan information environment. The scope of analysis is Russia’s activities in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

Risks and Vulnerabilities in the Western Balkans” (Rufin Zamfir, Global Focus Center) identifies the risks and vulnerabilities hostile actors can exploit to gain influence over countries in the Western Balkan region. Based on the methodology developed in previous studies by the Global Focus Center, this report offers the Permeability Index to measure each country’s vulnerability to malign influence to help support resilience-building efforts.

Russia’s Narratives toward the Western Balkans: Analysis of Sputnik Srbija” (Atlantic Council of Montenegro) provides a comprehensive analysis of the content of the Kremlin-sponsored Sputnik online news website in Serbian (Sputnik Srbija). It is aimed at understanding the narratives Russia is promoting about six Western Balkan countries, the EU and NATO. Sputnik has been recognised as one of the main channels of Russian influence in the Western Balkan media space. The report is based on analysis of a year-long monitoring process that lasted from January 1 to December 31, 2018. The authors analysed 7,193 articles about Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, as well as the EU and NATO. The report provides a basis for interested stakeholders to understand the methods and means that Russia uses to influence decision-making in the Western Balkans, as well as offers insights into the regional characteristics that facilitate Russia’s influence in the Western Balkan media space.

Tracking Russia’s Narratives in the Western Balkan Media” (Tihomira Doncheva) was developed as a follow-up report to “Russia’s Narratives Towards Western Balkans: Analysis of Sputnik Srbija Online Platform”. It is aimed at understanding to what extent Russia has the potential to spread its narratives in the Western Balkan media space. Although Sputnik Srbija is not among the most popular sources of information for local populations, they are exposed to Sputnik’s narratives by accessing local media outlets.

Here are some recommendations from the reports:

  1. Apply a strategic communications mind-set. It is important for Western Balkan governments, the EU, and NATO to understand the needs of audiences, match words and deeds, as well as offer prospects for further development of the region. Continuation of EU and NATO enlargement and constant messaging on the process is essential to avoid a sense of abandonment by the West.
  2. Provide alternative to the reporting of Kremlin-funded media. Sputnik Srbija’s content and style of writing resonates well with a considerable part of audiences in the Western Balkan region. Therefore, understanding what topics and styles of reporting are attractive to local audiences should be a priority to provide alternative to the information distributed by Russian-funded media.
  3. Continue analysis of methods and effects of Russia’s influence. It is crucial to investigate not only Russia’s activities and channels in the WB media space, but more importantly – to understand how and why narratives promoted by Kremlin-funded media resonate with local audiences. 

Read the report summary or click on links of reports below.

By NATO StratCom COE

Сообщение New reports focus on Western Balkan information environment появились сначала на StopFake.

Categories: World News

Edward Lucas: Irony amid the menace. Echos of a captive past

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 12:23
Photo: “1985 Victory Parade on Red Square” by Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation under CC BY 4.0

By Edward Lucas, for CEPA

Vladimir Putin is often criticized for his nostalgia for the USSR (he memorably called its collapse a “geopolitical catastrophe”). But many thousands of Russians in the “Soviet Citizens” movement take that view a step further. A majority of those taking part in the March 1991 referendum on the Soviet Union’s future, they argue, voted in favor of its continuation. It therefore follows that the Soviet Union’s dissolution following the failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev was illegal and that the modern Russian state is a usurper. These nostalgic zealots have set up (or restored, they would argue) state structures. As the Moscow Times reported recently, the head of the “Politburo,” a retired Moscow surveyor named Valentina Reunova, also commands the KGB, finance, and justice ministries. Their current campaign is spreading conspiracy theories against the pandemic lockdown. 

The Kremlin has a long history of infiltrating, manipulating, and even promoting extremist movements, so it would be wise not to take the “Soviet Citizens” at face value. It may suit the authorities to have such groups as safety valves. Their ire against the Russian authorities is only part of the message: all the other countries that gained or regained independence after the Soviet collapse are illegitimate too. 

Those who spent the Cold War campaigning against communism will find irony amid the menace. From Estonia to Georgia, emigré organizations maintained governments-in-exile, diplomatic missions, political parties, and other physical and symbolic manifestations of statehood in order to contest the idea that the Soviet empire was permanent and legitimate.

In the end, it paid off. In December 1990, members of Poland’s government-in-exile were flown on a government plane from London to Warsaw, to hand over to a new, freely elected president, Lech Wałęsa, the insignia they had guarded since their predecessors fled in 1939. I still remember meeting Ernst Jaakson in September 1991 as he came to Washington, at the age of 86, to present his credentials as Estonia’s first ambassador (the interwar republic had only a legation). In the intervening decades Jaakson had served at the consulate-general in New York, representing a country that had been wiped from the map. Shortly afterwards I went to Lithuania’s embassy to be given a visa — using a pre-war stamp — by Stasys Lororaitis, another long-serving exiled diplomat and cherished symbol of statehood. The Ukrainian People’s Republic in Exile declared victory in 1992. The Rada (Council) of the Belarusian Democratic Republic keeps going, determinedly preserving the flickers of a brief episode of statehood in 1918-19 that nobody alive today remembers. In Trieste last summer, I encountered a campaign to restore the “Free Territory” that existed under Anglo-American protection from 1947 to 1954, arguing that Italy’s subsequent rule over the port city was both incompetent and illegal.

The big difference between these efforts and the “Soviet Citizens” movement is not about the level of determination or even the historical legitimacy involved. It is about motive. The captive nations of eastern Europe were victims of imperialism. They stood for the rule of law and political freedoms; they were crushed because these “bourgeois nationalist” ideas were a potent threat to the Soviet system, built on lies and terror.

The real counterpart for these nostalgic Russians is in Germany, where the “Reichsbürger” movement argues that the defeat of 1945 did not mean the legal dissolution of the Third Reich. The Federal Republic is a puppet state. They too issue documents and claim that the law does not apply to them. They too are silent about the crimes of the past. Perhaps they and their Russian friends should get together. They could even sign some kind of agreement. It happened before.

By Edward Lucas, for CEPA

Europe’s Edge is an online journal covering crucial topics in the transatlantic policy debate. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

Сообщение Edward Lucas: Irony amid the menace. Echos of a captive past появились сначала на StopFake.

Categories: World News

Are universities punishing students ‘over common cold’?

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 21:28

By Polygraph

Dominic Gregorio
senior, University of Pennsylvania
“I wish the economy and the academy were not so easily incapacitated by the common cold. I wish (U. Penn) President Gutmann had heard the COVID-19 mortality rates in the U.S. were just above 0.1 percent, very similar to the seasonal flu, and acted like it.”
Source: The UPENN Statesman, March 18, 2020
False
COVID-19 is no common cold

In a blog written for the UPENN Statesman, a University of Pennsylvania student newspaper, Dominic Gregorio, a university senior, expressed his frustration over the Philadelphia school’s decision to cancel all on-campus commencement events. Instead, the school will hold a virtual ceremony for live broadcast.

Larry Jameson, Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine, and six other leaders of large academic health systems urge national leadership to resist pressure to lift tough social restrictions intended to subdue the coronavirus outbreak. https://t.co/uR9B4K2aIk

— Penn (@Penn) March 25, 2020

The decision was based on the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control “to protect the health of our graduates, their families, alumni, and faculty and staff,” Amy Gutmann, the university president said in a message March 16.

“I regret that this semester has been upended in so many ways. But in our lifetime the world has not faced a challenge as unique and complicated as the one that we currently confront,” she said.

Dominic Gregorio, a U. Penn senior, responded on March 18 in a UPENN Statesman article headlined, “Penn stole our senior year over the common cold.”

Penn stole our senior year over the common cold | The UPenn Statesman https://t.co/81PKl9GVX3

— Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd) March 22, 2020

Gegorio accused the university of an “over-the-top” response to coronavirus and of “robbing” the 2020 class of “the only senior year we’ll ever have.”

“I wish the economy and the academy were not so easily incapacitated by the common cold. I wish President Gutmann had heard the COVID-19 mortality rates in the U.S. were just above 0.1 percent, very similar to the seasonal flu, and acted like it,” Gregorio wrote. “I don’t care,” he added, about spreading infection.

Claims that COVID-19 is a common cold and that mortality rates are “just above 0.1 percent” are false.

The virus that causes COVID-19 has been identified as SARS-CoV-2, or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. There is no vaccine or special treatment. After being discovered in December in China, COVID-19 by mid-March became a global pandemic – third in 100 years after the 1918-19 Spanish flu.

What coronavirus symptoms look like, day by day pic.twitter.com/k4IVK4QX2m

— Tech Insider (@techinsider) March 18, 2020

The number of people infected worldwide is approaching a half-million (451,355 as of March 25), and the death toll is past 20,000 (20,499).

When describing the COVID-19, doctors, scientists and epidemiologists worldwide say they “have never seen anything like it,” and that it is “not like flu.”

This story by National Public Radio spells out many of the differences between COVID-19, the common cold and seasonal flu.

Here are eight of them:
  1. COVID-19 is novel, or new. That means there’s no vaccine, and it’s unclear how it will manifest;
  2. This strain of coronavirus appears to infect two to 2.5 people versus 1.3 with the flu, so coronavirus seems to be about twice as contagious as the flu;
  3. Some 20% of coronavirus patients are in serious enough condition to go to the hospital, 10 times the number who wind up in the hospital because of the flu;
  4. Hospital stays for the coronavirus are twice as long as for the flu;
  5. About 8% of people get the flu every year. Some estimates are 25% to 50%, possibly up to 80%, could get the coronavirus without drastic actions being taken by individuals, states and municipalities and the federal government;
  6. The coronavirus could be 10 times deadlier than the flu — about 0.1% who get flu die. It’s estimated that about 1% of those who have gotten coronavirus have died from it;
  7. There are treatments for the flu. There are no approved treatments for the coronavirus, despite the president’s optimism for certain drugs, which are untested for coronavirus to this point; and
  8. The flu tends to wane in warm weather, but it’s too soon to count on that for coronavirus, which is thriving in warm, tropical places.

Like Gregorio, hundreds of thousands of American students have expressed frustration about COVID-19’s impact on campus life.

Early news coverage of the COVID-19 disease said it appeared most dangerous for older adults and people with chronic illnesses and presented a low risk of death for younger, healthy people.

That has changed with the U.S. epidemic data.

“Today I have a message for young people: You are not invincible, this virus could put you in hospital for weeks or even kill you. Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyes, director general of the World Health Organization warned on March 21.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

All’s fair in love and war: Democracy in a state of emergency

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 21:20

Photo: Health screening at Shanghai Pudong International Airport by Ptrump16 under CC BY-SA 4.0

By Corina Rebegea, for CEPA

In the fight with the global COVID-19 crisis, many leaders are adopting a wartime discourse. The measures imposed—lockdowns, postponed elections, and surveillance—buy time, but they go beyond anything most people in the Western world have seen since the 1940s. Alarm bells are sounding in some quarters about that. Hungary’s state of emergency is particularly draconian. Groups such as Freedom House and Access Now are urging governments to consider the implications of their actions and inviting local civil society groups to keep a watchful eye on potential abuses of the constitutional framework regulating emergency measures. 

But an even larger question arises from the (perhaps temporary) new normality in which offline action has become almost nonexistent. The dangers of virtual spaces, such as disinformation and algorithmic manipulation—were already in focus before the pandemic. Disinformation campaigns and computational propaganda worldwide have already exposed how unprepared our legal systems are to deal with campaigning, advertising, and publishing online, as well as how unprepared our citizenry is for a barrage of virtual manipulation. Those worries are compounded by a new reality that all but forbids physical presence.

In the United States, political campaigns are going virtual, heralding the at least temporary end of basic democratic processes such as door-knocking, community organizing, rallying, and (perhaps) voting at polling stations. There is not enough time to create a new voting system; only a handful of countries, notably Estonia, have a robust and proven system for electronic ballots. The most likely immediate consequence is delay. 

But democracy is about more than elections. Even in normal times, the space for civil society is shrinking as governments and commercial pressures encroach on association, assembly, and expression: protests, marches, town halls, and participation in public consultations and decision-making. What will happen with these processes in an era of quarantine and lockdown? In countries with a shorter democratic experience (such as most of Central and Eastern Europe), building such habits and empowering civil society to exercise scrutiny and demand accountability was incomplete when the pandemic struck. With citizens already fatigued by disinformation, anxieties about health will further strain public trust. Those involved in politics and activism need to start thinking now what they can do to carry out their mission effectively and safely. 

While the authorities deal with the health emergency situation, civil society can use this time to regroup. Some, such as TechSoup Europe are already planning online training and events. Perhaps this is also a time for more policy-oriented reflection: at the height of the Second World War, William Beveridge was working on plans for Britain’s post-war welfare state. Donors too have an opportunity to rethink their focus. 

Finally, technology companies and internet giants can start acting upon their promise to support democracy, rather than contribute—however inadvertently—to its weakening. Discussions about the link between technology and democracy started before the pandemic. Now would be a good time to accelerate them.  

By Corina Rebegea, for CEPA

Common Crisis is a CEPA analytical series on the implications of COVID-19 for the transatlantic relationship. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

Corina Rebegea is a Program Director, founder of the U.S.-Romania Initiative and Fellow-in-Residence. Corina works on democracy and rule of law issues, good governance, and public sector leadership, as well as transatlantic security cooperation and Black Sea security. She also leads the center’s programming on democracy, media literacy, and countering disinformation.  

Categories: World News

Russian senator falsely claims poles closed airspace to virus aid

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 20:37
An updated version of a story about the claim that Poland closed its airspace to Russian military aircraft bound for Italy

By Polygraph

Alexey Pushkov
Chairman of the commission on information policy of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament
“Poland did not let Russian aircraft carrying aid to Italy pass through its airspace. This is meanness at the level of public policy. Moreover, the help was for an ally of Poland in the EU and NATO. From now on, Russia should not meet Poland half-way, on any issue.”
Source: Sputnik, March 23, 2020
False
Poland disputed claims by a longtime antagonist.

On March 24, Alexey Pushkov, a member of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament, tweeted that Poland had closed its airspace to Russian military aircraft delivering aid to Italy.

“Poland did not let Russian aircraft carrying aid to Italy pass through its airspace,” Pushkov wrote on his personal Twitter account.

“This is meanness at the level of public policy. Moreover, the help was for an ally of Poland in the EU and NATO. From now on, Russia should not meet Poland half-way, on any issue.”

The Russian state-owned media outlet Sputnik picked up the story. It initially reported that Poland had blocked the Russian aid aircraft while noting that neither the Polish Foreign Ministry nor the Russian Defense Ministry had confirmed the information.

Pushkov’s tweet was later deleted, and the Sputnik story and headline were changed to reflect the new information.

Pushkov’s claim is false.

Poland’s Foreign Ministry denied closing its airspace to Russian aid for Italy and reported that it had received no request for access from the Russian military.

A Sputnik story based on Pushkov’s tweet. The story was updated on March 24 with a new headline, but the URL still displays the original. Twitter link to the Sputnik story with the original headline

Chairman of the Committee on (Dis-)Information Policy of the Federation Council (the upper house of the Federal Assembly of Russia) spreading #FakeNews about Poland blocking an airlift with Russian aid for Italy.

A clear victim of the #COVIDIDIOTS pandemic in Russia. pic.twitter.com/n2v6AVhIF2

— Sławomir Dębski (@SlawomirDebski) March 24, 2020

Attention: another #FakeNews on the #coronavirus pandemic.

Russia did not request entry into Polish airspace.
The news of Poland’s alleged refusal is baseless and untrue. pic.twitter.com/8bL6eSBjj8

— Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Categories: World News

The community of collapse

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 20:10

By EU vs Disinfo

The Kremlin, the conspiracy theorists and the coronavirus

In an article last year, EUvsDisinfo described the dialogue of disinformation. Disinformation outlets need to adopt to the audience, carefully map and understand sentiments, prejudice and ideals. Lies are best if they resonate with the worldviews, superstitions and archetypes of the intended audience.

The COVID-19 outbreak illustrates this dialogue of disinformation very clearly. Take for instance the trope about the COVID-19 being an American artificially created virus. This is the very first example of disinformation in the EUvsDisinfo disinformation database on the current outbreak: A new Chinese coronavirus was likely elaborated in NATO biolabs.

The same week, Sputnik’s Arab language service repeated the claim about the US origins of the virus. This piece of disinformation really resonated with the audience, and was republished in dozens of Arab language websites, including a fake BBC site.

Pointing Fingers

Well, pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets are not prejudiced and happily point finger in any comfortable direction. There are examples of cases in the database, suggesting the culprit is China, the country is hiding the real numbers of deaths of the disease. The UK is another alleged malefactor, as are the usual villains in the disinformation outlets’ play book: Bill Gates, Soros, the “Global Elites”, the Belarusian opposition

Conspiracy theories are not a prerogative of pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets. Most of the above-mentioned tropes can be found in abundance anywhere on the web. But the articles above are from state-funded, mainstream channels, managed directly by the Kremlin or by oligarchs, close to the Kremlin. Sputnik is funded by the federal budget, TV Zvezda belongs to the Russian Armed Forces. We are not referring to strange, fringe publications, but to mouthpieces of Russian officialdom.

The dialogue of disinformation can be illustrated through the relationship between various forms of pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets:

  • Sites, openly belonging to, or affiliated with, Russian state structures. In this group we find RT, Sputnik, Russia Beyond, New Eastern Outlook;
  • Sites, registered in Russia and with open and obvious connection to pro-Kremlin circles: Examples are Geopolitica.ru, Katehon.com, News Front
  • Sites, registered in Russia, but with more or less hidden connections to the Kremlin or other Russian structures. Here we find Strategic Culture Foundation, South Front, Oriental Review, One World, Info Brics
  • Sites, registered outside Russia and with no apparent ties to Russian state or Oligarch structures, but with an openly pro-Kremlin agenda: Russia-Insider, Russian-Faith, The Duran, The Saker, Fort Russ News
  • And, sites, registered outside Russia, supporting pro-Kremlin narratives, while having no apparent ties to Russia: Global Research, Unz Review, Veterans Today, The Alt World…

The connections between this last group and Russian officialdom can be hard to spot. Usually, the narratives forwarded on key issues follow the Kremlin lines to take very closely. Searching for “Syria”, “Skripal” or “MH17” on those sites yields results, identical to the Kremlin media’s. Contributors to those sites are usually frequent guests at RT/Sputnik or other Kremlin state channels. And occasionally, one can find individuals, connected to Kremlin, or Russian oligarch structures, in editorial boards or as guests at RT/Sputnik.

The Manufactured Chaos

Russian New Eastern Outlook suggests Bill Gates as one of the villains behind the outbreak. This article is quickly shared by Global Research in both English and French. The article is translated into Italian and Swedish as well.

The same Russia-based, state-funded outlet identifies the COVID-19 outbreak as a designated plan to throw the world into chaos:

Simply put, there are actors out there that can and would unleash a global pandemic as a component in a long term “chaos theory” operation.

Those same actors would do so and have, over and over, no matter the cost in human lives. I think one can now safely point to 9/11 and its aftermath as one such operation.

One might also cite several regime change efforts as well and even fill in the names of nations involved, the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Again: this is NOT your foil-hat fringe-conspiracy uncle waffling during an awkward family dinner: this is from a site, managed by the Russian Academy of Sciences’ (yes, Sciences) section for Oriental Studies. A reputable institution that lends itself to distribution of lies.

South Front, again, compares the COVID-19 outbreak with 9/11, the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York 9 September 2001:

We are now experiencing 911-2B, the coronavirus black swan. Just as 9/11 terrorized, shocked, and shut down the USA for a few days, it seems that Covid-19 will do the same, only more so. Instead of a few days, we may be shut down for a few months, maybe even a few years. And once again, Zionists are hysterically pushing back against those of us questioning the official story. 

In this case, South Front published an article from the US-based Unz Review. This article is quickly spread to other pro-Kremlin sites and translated into French.

Against Vaccination

Disinformation spreads virally through a complicated network of sites. The purpose of this disinformation is to sow distrust in authorities, media, and expertise – even the health-care system. Quoting Russian South Front publication of Canadian Global Research’s article on the COVID-19 outbreak:

After the pandemic has been officially declared, the next step may be – also at the recommendation either by WHO, or individual countries, “force vaccination”, under police and/or military surveillance. Those who refuse may be penalized (fines and / or jail – and force-vaccinated all the same).

South Front/Global Research describes the COVID-19 outbreak as a fake pandemic, set up by the “Anglo-Zionist Empire”, just waiting for the right moment to launch their cunning plan:

The final decision to go ahead NOW, was taken in January 2020 at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos – behind very much closed doors, of course. The Gates, GAVI (an association of vaccination-promoting pharmaceuticals), Rockefellers, Rothschilds et al, they are all behind this decision

In the author’s universe, the COVID-19 the schemes spun behind “very much closed doors” aim at introducing force vaccinations, nano-chips being injected into our bodies to control us.

If indeed force-vaccination will happen, another bonanza for Big Pharma, people really don’t know what type of cocktail will be put into the vaccine, maybe a slow killer, that acts-up only in a few years – or a disease that hits only the next generation – or a brain debilitating agent, or a gene that renders women infertile …. all is possible – always with the aim of full population control and population reduction. In a few years’ time, one doesn’t know, of course, where the disease comes from. That’s the level of technology our bio-war labs have reached (US, UK, Israel, Canada, Australia…).

This anti-vaccine trope can be found occasionally in the disinformation Mirror Land: Fundamentalist Christian Russian Faith comforts its readers that the Church of Russia denounces any plans for compulsory vaccination. The same outlet share RT content on prayers in Moscow to fight the virus.

It is impossible to say who is piggybacking whom. Is the Kremlin using those sites to spread their narratives, or are the owners of various conspiracy theory sites using the Kremlin to finance their own ambitions? And does it matter? Health care professionals, national, European and International organisations are focusing on addressing the challenges of a pandemic outbreak. The pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets are jeopardising the battle against the disease.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

Sputnik: Coronavirus could be designed to kill elderly Italians

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 02:46

By EU vs Disinfo

In a time that calls for international cooperation to fight a common threat, Kremlin mouthpiece Sputnik chooses to spread disinformation about COVID-19. 

A Sputnik article published on 15 March promoted an entire catalogue of unfounded theories about the origin of the coronavirus: from the idea that COVID-19 could originate in Latvia to the suggestion that it could have been created as a means to reduce the number of elderly people in Italy.

What makes Sputnik want to misinform audiences about the origin of the coronavirus in this way? And how exactly is Sputnik linked to the Russian authorities? 

Cui bono?

The article in question was published in Russian by Sputnik Latvia under the headline, “Coronavirus Invented in Latvia? Why Not?” and suggested to look for who could benefit from the crisis. 

According to the publication, COVID-19 could serve the interests of The Communist Party of China to stop protests in Hong Kong; governments challenged by the Yellow Vest movement; Italy to limit the economic burden of retired citizens; and Europe as a whole to not let in refugees via Turkey. 

Sputnik promoted a series of conspiracy theories about coronavirus under the headline, “Coronavirus Invented in Latvia? Why Not?”. Screenshot from Sputnik.

In addition, Sputnik suggested that COVID-19 could help Greta Thunberg to promote her green agenda; European tourist magnets Prague, Barcelona and Venice to limit noise and garbage; and feminists to see more women on corporate boards, as the virus is allegedly more dangerous to men than to women. 

Finally, in the spirit of the saying that “all politics is local,” Sputnik suggested that the virus could be used by Latvian authorities to postpone local elections in Riga, as well as to further a number of other potentially unpopular measures, using the virus challenge as an excuse.

Part of a tendency

Sputnik Latvia does not stand alone; also other branches of the Russian state-owned media outlet have disseminated conspiracy theories about COVID-19.

Sputnik in Arabic has speculated that coronavirus could be an American biological attack; that president Trump ordered such an attack to happen and that it has been manufactured to target Asians.

Sputnik Mundo – the Spanish language branch of the Russian state media network – has spoken of COVID-19 as an American biological weapon. Screenshot from Sputnik

In Armenia, Sputnik has suggested that the coronavirus was created in a laboratory and labelled the virus an example of hybrid warfare. In Azerbaidjan, Sputnik has presented COVID19 as a tool to weaken Chinese economy, as has Sputnik’s branch in Belarus.

Also in Belarus, Sputnik has suggested that coronavirus could have been developed in NATO biological laboratories, while the branch in Georgia has spoken of the epidemic as not accidental and with economic goals.

Sputnik’s Spanish language branch has suggested that COVID-19 could be an American biological weapon; as a means to isolate China and to spread panic and divert attention from unpopular issues, such as Brexit.

Under the Kremlin’s direct control

With headquarters in Moscow, Sputnik operates news websites in more than 30 languages and countries worldwide.

Together with RIA Novosti and InoSMI, Sputnik comprises the state news holding Rossiya Segodnya whose CEO is the EU-sanctioned Dmitry Kiselyov. The holding shares its editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, with RT (Russia Today).

Sputnik’s CEO is the EU-sanctioned Dmitry Kiselyov. He is also the host of a Sunday night show on state-controlled TV Rossiya 1

Rossiya Segodnya is funded by the Russian government. According to the draft budget for 2020-2022, Rossiya Segodnya will receive on average 106 million euros per year in subsidy.

Sputnik’s editorial policy is subject to direct control from Russia’s presidential administration through a practice known as “the weekly meetings.” 

The Rossiya Segodnya holding was created by a Presidential decree with the aim to “report on the state policy of Russia abroad”. That leaves no other option but to conclude that the current aim of Russia’s policy is to confuse, rather than inform about the threat from COVID-19.

Follow this link to the EUvsDisinfo database to see other examples of pro-Kremlin disinformation about the coronavirus; follow this link to see other examples of disinformation spread by Sputnik.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

Disinformation can kill

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 02:39

By EU vs Disinfo

There is only one priority now: all national, European, and international resources are focused on containing the COVID-19 outbreak. The virus is spreading fast; hundreds of thousands are ill, thousands are dying. Lives depend on accurate and timely information. As Josep Borrell, head of the European External Action Service, said at a press conference earlier this week: “Disinformation is playing with people’s lives. Disinformation can kill.

This dangerous game has gone on for two months now. The first piece of disinformation we recorded on the coronavirus appeared in Russian state-funded Sputnik News on January 22nd. The narrative was in place from the beginning: the virus is man-made; a weapon created by NATO. With minor variations, we see the same claim repeated ad nauseam this week. The US constructed the virus; the Pentagon did it; the ruling elites… The purpose of this supposed fiendish scheme is to introduce world tyranny and secure American hegemony; third world countries – indeed anyone living south of the 40th parallel! – are the target of the Evil West.

Sowing Distrust

On the one hand, pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets claim that the outbreak is a hoax. On the other, they indulge apocalyptic scenarios, suggesting that due to the pandemic the Schengen system has collapsed, NATO will dissolve, the EU is paralysed, the Baltic states are doomed, there are no doctors in Lithuania, and Ukraine is in free fall. The entire project of “globalisation” is over! The coronavirus is the EU’s Chernobyl. But then the whiplash comes again: The virus is not dangerous at all. It can be cured with saline in four days, what’s the problem?

The problem is that the virus in fact cannot be “cured with saline”. Anyone following this advice risks not only their own health, but also the health – or worse, the lives – of other people.

Almost half of this week’s disinformation cases are devoted, in one way or another, to the COVID-19 outbreak. An overarching goal of this campaign is to sow distrust wherever possible: in the healthcare system (it’s controlled by Big Pharma to introduce mandatory vaccination!), national institutions (like in Sweden, where they are controlled by oligarchs), the EU (it’s just failing all in all), and the World Health Organisation (it’s an instrument of the government – what government, you ask? The shadow government!).

Meanwhile, the pro-Kremlin disinformation ecosystem parrots official claims about the situation in Russia being “under control” without going into much detail about this alleged achievement. The country has not fallen for the mistake known as “democracy”.

We Stand Together

The COVID-19 outbreak is a global challenge that needs to be addressed at all levels of society: we have a responsibility as individuals to make sure we don’t spread the virus and take care of each other. Municipalities, regions, and states all have obligations to secure medical services, take care of the weakest and most vulnerable among us, and maintain public order. Academia and the wider research community, the private sector, the EU, the UN, and other regional and international bodies all have their designated responsibilities and functions. In the end, the effectiveness of the global response boils down to trust and cooperation.

The Kremlin’s disinformation machine is seeking to undermine this essential solidarity at a time when disinformation can well and truly kill.

Stay up-to-date on EU measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak here. We stand together.

Other topics this week:

Stay healthy; don’t be deceived.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News

People are getting a lot of coronavirus news from traditional media, but they trust information from their employers more

Wed, 03/25/2020 - 03:22

By Hanaa Tameez, for NiemanLab

The coronavirus pandemic continues to throw salt in the wound we journalists have about the public’s trust in news.

The communications firm Edelman published a special edition of its annual Trust Barometer Report that highlights the role that the private sector must play in informing people about the coronavirus crisis.

Unfortunately, the study also underscores the public’s conflicting views of the news media.

From CEO Richard Edelman:

Given the present state of low trust, business will have to fill a further void, that of credible information. It is urgent that we enable fact-based decisions and allow our employees to feel part of a broad societal movement to fight this plague. For CCOs, it is time for you to initiate regular briefings for employees by your chief scientist or medical officer, to provide trustworthy content that can be shared with employee families or community, to reach out to government to cooperate in work-at-home initiatives and to ensure that the company’s social channels are contributing to knowledge and not panic.

I rolled my eyes too, reader.

Between March 6 and 10, Edelman surveyed 1,000 people in each of 10 countries: Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Those include some of the largest outbreak sites in the world, like Italy (59,138 confirmed cases), the U.S. (39,262), and Germany (27,047).

Overall, the study found that employers are considered to be the most credible sources of information related to coronavirus.

“Sixty-three percent said that they would believe information from

[their employer]

after one or two exposures, versus 58 percent for a government website and 51 percent for traditional media,” the report says.

On average, 70 percent of respondents are following coronavirus news daily. In Italy, 93 percent of news consumers are checking in daily while that drops to 50 percent in Germany.

Whatever their problems with trust, news organizations still win out in bulk — they are the most common source of coronavirus-related information. The survey found that 64 percent of respondents get most of their coronavirus-related information from major news outlets. Japan and South Korea top the list at 73 percent, while the lowest is 52 percent in France.

But journalists ranked dead last when respondents were asked what information source they trusted to tell the truth about the virus, at just 43 percent. “The news media” collectively, though, scored a little better at 50 percent. But that’s still lower than “a person like yourself,” at 63 percent.

How much you trust each of following sources to tell you the truth about the #covid19?

Scientists/doctors top (great)
However: "person like yourself" beats "my country's leader" and, bottom, "journalists".

OMFG

Ten-market average, 1k respondents in eachhttps://t.co/DNiQoE8ukZ pic.twitter.com/bfrcQuqddW

— Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (@rasmus_kleis) March 17, 2020

OMFG, indeed.

It’s also a reminder of why it’s important that local media has taken the brunt of the news business’ financial distress over the past decade, not national media. Someone is much more likely to consider a local reporter — someone who hoards toilet paper from the same Target as they do — a “person like yourself” than, say, Wolf Blitzer.

On the misinformation front, 85 percent want to hear more from scientists and less from politicians, 74 percent worry about the spread of fake news about the virus, and 45 percent have trouble finding reliable and trustworthy information about the virus and its effects.

You can read the full findings here.

By Hanaa Tameez, for NiemanLab

Categories: World News

Combating ‘fake news’ in the time of COVID-19 in Myanmar

Wed, 03/25/2020 - 02:47
Travelers at Yangon International Airport walk past a Ministry of Health and Sports advisory billboard about COVID-19 on March 18, 2020 / Photo and caption by Myo Min Soe / The Irrawaddy

Source: Global Voices

This edited article by Nan Lwin is from The Irrawaddy, an independent news website in Myanmar, and is republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Check out Global Voices’ special coverage of the global impact of COVID-19.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in China’s Hubei province, social media has spawned countless fake news stories and hoaxes in Myanmar, including promises of false cures that have caused panic among the public.

As a countermeasure, Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) formed a team in early January to give the public timely information about the global coronavirus pandemic, including the latest data and updates on the exact number of suspected cases and laboratory results, in collaboration with state and regional governments. The MOHS team also launched a website with videos about the virus as part of their effort to raise public awareness on how to stay safe—for both medical staff and the public—and also provide do’s and don’ts from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Irrawaddy spoke to MOHS Assistant Director Dr. Htoo Myint Swe, who is responsible for the public awareness information team, about the virus and how the ministry is providing information to the public and fighting fake news on social media and online platforms.

Nan Lwin: We have seen countless fake news stories, misinformation and disinformation on Facebook, especially about COVID-19. How does the MOHS work to fight fake news on online platforms?

Dr. Htoo Myint Swe: The most important thing is that when you hear a rumor, you must check the MOHS official website and Facebook page. When it comes to fighting fake news, our team has a responsibility to give the public real information. We have to act as a watchdog for all information related to COVID-19 on social media among Myanmar users.

Our team includes officials from the CDC [Myanmar National Center of Disease Control], public health and electronic health system officials, and other officers who are working to prevent and fight COVID-19. We also coordinate with other related departments to distinguish between real news and fake news.

We have to respond immediately, as soon as fake news has spread. Recently, everyone began to panic after a rumor spread on Facebook that one patient [in Myanmar] died of COVID-19. We had to respond immediately—it was totally fake news.

Many people have been sharing misinformation: that people need to drink hot water to prevent COVID-19 and also that eating ice cream could cause the disease. People think that those instructions came from UNICEF. So we had to discuss with officials from UNICEF in Myanmar and explain to the public that this is not right.

Now, we are also collaborating with the Ministry of Transport and Communications to track down people who are spreading fake news. We also share information with each other. Recently, our ministry also issued a warning that we will take action against people who spread fake news on social media.

NL: What kind of fake news stories have people been taking seriously?

HMS: We watch carefully and take it seriously, especially fake information that has caused serious panic. Recently, panic buying has started across Yangon after a fake voice recording circulated on Facebook. They used both a woman’s and a man’s voices, pretending to be government officials saying that there are many people infected with COVID-19 in Yangon. Moreover, we found out that many pages on social media are provoking panic buying and fear mongering among the public.

Recently, social media users are helping our work to fight fake news and our public awareness campaign. Thousands of social media users made a group and a network to serve as watchdogs for fake news on social media. They also report it to Facebook as soon as they see the fake news, misinformation or disinformation. We are also connected with that network to make our work more effective.

NL: How does Facebook’s Myanmar team collaborate with MOHS?

HMS: Facebook already has a function to report for controversial issues. When we find out about fake news, we report it to [Facebook] to check it carefully and to take it down. But they don’t take down every post that we report. They only take down posts when they don’t follow their community standards.

NL: Why is it important to fight fake news in the time of coronavirus?

HMS: It is very crucial to fight fake news in the time of coronavirus. A piece of fake news, a photo or a status could easily provoke the public to panic. We are all together during this critical time. We need to unify to fight together. Fake news could lead to instability in the country. The result will be bad for every citizen in this country.

I would like to advise all social media users to think carefully before they share something on Facebook. Recently, we found out that some websites have been sharing disinformation about the virus, like how many have died in Myanmar due to COVID-19. Many people are sharing it without knowing it is a clickbait website.

However, we are facing challenges in trying to take down those kinds of websites. Also, some users are sharing posts that mix factual and fake information. These posts come with the UNICEF logo to get more attention, so we have to check with UNICEF about which information is right or wrong. Then we still have to inform people about the truth.

I would like to advise people to believe the statements from the MOHS official website and Facebook. The WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a global pandemic. Even though we have no cases so far, we need to prepare to fight the disease together.

NL: Currently, Myanmar has tested nearly 150 people for possible virus infection. But Myanmar has not yet seen a single confirmed case of the coronavirus so far. Some people wonder if the virus is going undetected or the government is covering it up. What would you want to say to them, as an official from MOHS?

HMS: No, we don’t…. We are not covering up anything. This is absolutely not true. COVID-19 is not the kind of disease we could cover up. Nowadays, everyone has a phone and internet access. We could not hide anything. Now, everybody knows the latest formation as soon as we find out about a suspected patient in the country, including the [test] results. I would like to tell the public not to worry—we won’t be covering anything up. We will give timely and correct information to the public on everything related to COVID-19.

Written by The Irrawaddy

Categories: World News

The great phony: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fake quarantine letter

Wed, 03/25/2020 - 02:33

By Polygraph

All across the Internet
“Read the classics. This is a quarantine letter by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was isolated in south of France in 1920 due to the Spanish influenza.”
Source: Twitter, March 20, 2020
False
The letter is fake, translated from a satirical piece

A Russian translation of the “Quarantine letter” purportedly written by renowned American author F. Scott Fitzgerald during the Spanish flu epidemic is making the rounds on social media, blogs, chats and media websites.

A fake F. Scott Fitzgerald quarantine latter translated into Russian language

The letter describes life under quarantine during the Spanish flu pandemic in the early 20th century. A portion that is being shared most enthusiastically and has made it into various memes:

“The officials have alerted us to ensure we have a month’s worth of necessities. Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, gin, and lord, if we need it, brandy. Please pray for us.”

FRANCIS SCOTT FITZGERALD

Fitzgerald, of course, is the author of “The Great Gatsby,” published in 1925 during the height of the U.S. prohibition era (1920-33). The novel’s characters drank heavily. Fitzgerald struggled with alcoholism throughout his adult life.

The letter is a fake.

The original version was written by the American Nick Fariella for the humor website McSweeneys.com and published on March 13. A note atop the piece reads: “This is a work of parody and is not an actual letter written by Fitzgerald.”

But don’t let a flat-out warning get in the way of the internet.

Yandex.ru, the Russian equivalent of Google, yields more than 2 million current results when searched for the Fitzgerald quarantine letter. A few are debunking stories, but most are postings that take Fariella’s satire as really having been written by Fitzgerald.

A screenshot of a Yandex.ru search for “F. Scott Fitzgerald quarantine letter”

On social media, “the letter” was for the most part shared as a simple screenshot of the text in Russian. A @Twoogel search returned hundreds of tweets with the shot.

User @stalingulag wrote on March 21: “Sure, people used to be able to sit through a quarantine. They stocked the proper supplies. And now? Canned meat, pasta, toilet paper. Such a degeneration!”

The tweet received more than 3,400 likes and 600-plus retweets as of March 22. Hundreds replied with images of their own impressive stockpiles of alcohol.

Вот умели раньше люди на карантине сидеть. Правильные запасы делали. А сейчас что? Тушёнка, макароны, туалетная бумага. Какая деградация! pic.twitter.com/XjTRdo7X0J

— Сталингулаг (@StalinGulag) March 21, 2020

Reuters’ fact-checker found the fake letter just as popular in the U.S.

“The text has been shared at least 2,800 times on Facebook and at least 1,355 times on Twitter as of March 19, 2020,” Reuters reported.

The Spanish flu of 1918-19 was the most severe pandemic in recent history, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC). It infected a third of human population globally and killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.

By Polygraph

Categories: World News

Figure of the week: 76 million

Wed, 03/25/2020 - 02:20

By EU vs Disinfo

Advertisements for some of the best-known global brands are funding some of the most notorious disinformation sites in Europe – to the tune of US$76 million per year.

New research by the Global Disinformation Index has produced the findings, estimating that more than $76 million in ad revenues is inadvertently being spent annually on sites that spread disinformation by major corporations including Amazon Prime, Burger King, Mercedes Benz, Samsung, Spotify, and Volvo. Crucially, the placement of these ads is enabled by a number of equally prominent tech companies, with Google (Ad Services and DoubleClick) and Criteo leading the pack. These companies provide ads for each site based on each user’s online data footprint and geolocation.

The study found that Google provides ad services to 57% of the disinformation sites used in the sample, paying them 62% of the estimated total revenues – a whopping US$48 million annually. GDI highlights that Google’s market dominance with this problem in Europe “reflects its global role in serving ads to disinformation sites globally.” Second to Google, French ad tech company Criteo also serves up a significant portion of ads to European disinformation sites, providing 13% of them with ads that result in payments totalling US$13 million annually (17% of overall revenues).

In addition, other ad tech companies covered in the study include Amazon, Moneytizer, OpenX, Pubmatic, Revcontent, Rubicon Project, Taboola, Teads, The Trade Desk, Twitter, and Xandr. The share of each ad tech company’s advertising revenue and proportion of domains served is shown in the graph below. Five companies account for 97% of ad revenues paid to disinformation-spreading sites: Google, Criteo, OpenX, Taboola and Xandr. While precise estimates of online ad revenue are hard to make due to market opacity, GDI’s method focused on their lower bound, making these estimates conservative by comparison to other studies.

Source: Global Disinformation Index

As part of the research, GDI compiled a map of these brand name ads across various known disinformation sites in Europe. The list of domains used in the study – which totalled almost 1,400 – was collected from several independent fact-checking sources as well as scraped from public lists that track disinformation in Europe, including the EUvsDisinfo database.

The sample encompassed foreign news sites that are known for spreading disinformation in Europe – such as the language and country variations of Russia Today, Sputnik News, and Epoch Times, among others – as well as domains in several European countries. The research specifically profiled eight national case studies: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, and Spain.

Based on its findings, GDI concludes that this widespread and indiscriminate placement of ads on disinformation sites is a violation of the EU’s Code of Practice on Disinformation, of which one goal is “to disrupt advertising and monetization incentives” for disinformation. GDI notes that Google as well as the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) are signatories of the Code of Practice and have voluntarily committed themselves to its implementation. While IAB counts among its members several of the ad tech companies identified as serving ads on the disinformation sites, the WFA represents a wide range of advertisers and brands, including many found in the present study.

Accordingly, the implication of this research is that ad tech companies as well as brands themselves are either unaware of or unwilling to reduce advertising placed on sites whose activities harm public debates in open societies. More must be done both by the advertising industry and brands themselves to prevent the monetisation of disinformation and related harmful content that threatens to undermine European democratic processes, civic cohesion, and public health.

By EU vs Disinfo

Categories: World News