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Monday, December 5, 2016

Washington Post list dozens of sites peddling Russian propaganda

A recent article by Craig Timberg in the Washington Post lists dozens of news sites that supposedly are "routine peddlers of Russian propaganda".
 

The entire article can be found here. There is a long, detailed analysis of the article in the Intercept.
The article cites a report by a website called PropOrNot which claims that millions of Americans were deceived by a massive Russian "misinformation campaign". As one would expect, on the list are sites such as RT but included are also Wikileaks, the Drudge Report (Drudge being a conservative), a number of left-wing sites such as Truthout, Black Agenda Report and Naked Capitalism, all often critical of Clinton. It includes Libertarian sites such as the Ron Paul Institute and antiwar.com. It also includes Infowars, and Prison Planet. The entire list can be found on Prop or Not's website.
The Washington Post is one of the prime U.S. dailies. It is published in Washington DC. The paper has won 47 Pulitzer prizes and Post journalists have received 18 Nieman Fellowships. It is the paper that revealed the Nixon Watergate scandal. Yet in the recent election it was hostile to Bernie Sanders: "On March 8th, 2016, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting published links to 16 purportedly negative articles on Bernie Sanders published in the on-line version of the paper during a period of 16 hours from March 6th to March 7th." The paper also called for the prosecution of Edward Snowden who helped them win a Pulitzer prize.
The Post published this article that is filled with reckless accusations and unproven allegations. The executive editor, Marty Baron, helped promote the article with posts on twitter:Marty Baron ✔ @PostBaron Russian propaganda effort helped spread fake news during election, say independent researchers. 8:07 PM — 24 Nov 2016 Photo published for Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say. Researchers say sophisticated tools were used to boost Trump and undermine Clinton. washingtonpost.com 3,240 3,240 Retweets 2,506 2,506 likes
The experts behind ProOrNot are described as "a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds". Not a single contributing individual or organization is named. There is a quote from the executive director but he is not named in order "to avoid being targeted by Russia's legions of skilled hackers". These experts with technology background are simply defenseless against Russian hackers. When the Intercept tried to find out from PropOrNot details about its team it replied: “We’re getting a lot of requests for comment and can get back to you today =) [smiley face emoticon].We’re over 30 people, organized into teams, and we cannot confirm or deny anyone’s involvement.”
PropOrNot listed numerous organizations as being allied with it. When the Intercept checked with some of them they claimed to have nothing to do with the group and had not even heard of it. After many of the groups complained on social media the Intercept asked about the inconsistency. At least the reply was clear. They admitted they had no institutional affiliation with any organization. The relationship list was changed to "related projects".
The Intercept quotes a number of tweets by PropOrNot that give a sample of what the groups views are like. Here is one: PropOrNot ID Service @propornot Fascists. Straight up muthaf*****n' [asterisks inserted] fascists. That's what we're up against. Unwittingly or not, they work for Russia." Another tweet says that they will consider revealing their names when Russia reveals the names of those running its propaganda operations in the West. The group even has a new Chrome plug in which will alert you when you visit a website that is on their list.
PropOrNot claims that stories planted or promoted by the Russian disinformation campaign have been viewed more than 213 million times. No account was given of how this number was determined. The group recommends relying on publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, the BBC and Wall Street Journal among other establishment publications. The group does not give its criteria for including a site on its list. It includes not just sites such as RT which do promote Russian propaganda but also "useful idiots" which include any publication that publishes anything that might help the Russian government. Of course that includes any material critical of Western governments and their policies. They deny being McCarthyite, yet they want U.S. media outlets investigated by the FBI for espionage on behalf of Russia, the Intercept notes.
When the Intercept asked Craig Timberg the author of the article on PropOrNot, where it got its funding, whether it was linked to any government and whether it was fair to label left-wing news sites such as Truthout, "Russian propaganda outlets," he replied: “I’m sorry, I can’t comment about stories I’ve written for the Post.”
The Intercept points out in the past the Post itself has promoted "fake news". In September it published an article that took seriously a claim that Hillary Clinton collapsed on 9/11 because she was poisoned by Putin. The Post also printed numerous articles about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and alliances with Al-Qaeda. At least we can be thankful the Post has exposed itself as a creator of "fake news".


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