New Disinformation Digest from the East StratCom Task Force
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Cutting the cord

Funding for disinformation sites has come under increased pressure this week. Following accusations that fake news influenced the outcome of the US election, social media network Facebook and search giant Google took steps to undercut the advertising opportunities for fake news sites on their platforms. The New York Times reports that Google said that it would ban websites that peddle fake news from using its online advertising service. Facebook announced that fake news sites would be banned from displaying adverts in sites that show misleading or illegal content.

While these actions do not take aim at government-sponsored disinformation, they target for-profit fake news sites, which some say could have influenced the outcome of the US election. 

This week, a new initiative against disinformation also launched in Denmark: The Mandag Morgen media house opened a new fact-checking portal. When editor in chief Lisbeth Knudsen introduced the project, she pointed out that the traditional journalistic principle of neutrality, balance and listening to several sides of a case had its limits in times of disinformation. 

Do Europeans really suffer from Russiaphobia, as pro-Kremlin media regularly claim? The East StratCom Task Force went on the street and asked Europeans if that's true. The video carrying a resounding No to russophobia from citizens from several EU countries was published last week on the EU vs Disinformation Facebook page and became very popular in Russia, reaching 100.000 profiles. Click here or on the image above to see the video, with sound in several European languages and Russian subtitles.

Russian media accuse Russian media

This week the government-owned Russian news agency RIA Novosti was accused of disinformation by one of Russia's leading newspapers, Kommersant. 
The background for the accusations was a story about President Obama’s visit to Greece, released on Sunday by RIA under the headline “Media: Obama will demand that Greece closes its ports to Russian ships”.  
On the same day, Kommersant published an article entitled “Russian media deceived by mistranslation”, where it clarified that the demand to close Greek ports to Russian vessels has never been on President Obama’s agenda; it is instead a recommendation voiced by an American think-tanker interviewed by the Greek analytical outlet, to which RIA refers in its material. The accusations led to a debate in open letters from RIA’s editors to Kommersant’s editors and vice versa (Letter from RIA, Letter from Kommersant).
The controversy points to fundamental issues in the Russian media landscape. Outlets like Kommersant depend on receiving accurate reporting from news agencies that has been critically checked. Secondly, the practice of not checking an opinion voiced by someone in another media, but rather of turning it into a fact and putting it in a headline constitutes a massive potential for disinformation and is regularly used by pro-Kremlin outlets. Finally, the incident highlights the disinformation opportunities translation offers, as recently highlighted in the Disinformation Digest.
What are the concrete outcomes of the EU's assistance to the Republic of Moldova? A series of eight videos shows the stories of eight project beneficiaries whose lives have been changed by EU projects. Several tell the story of how grants helped them return to Moldova and set up businesses while Corina Leah, pictured above, explains how her Erasmus exchange in Austria boosted her CV and helped her to find a job back in Chisinau. More videos will be published on the Facebook page European Union in the Republic of Moldova.

Misinforming Italy

Recently, Italy has been in the focus of Russian government-funded TV network RT in an extraordinary manner, as La Stampa reports. Italy is currently preparing for a referendum on constitutional reform on 4 December, initiated by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

On 29 October, RT live streamed an event in Rome, reporting that the streets were flooded by thousands of people protesting against the referendum and the Prime Minister. And in parts of Rome, the streets were indeed flooded by people, since they were attending the "Yes to the referendum" event that was held in Piazza del Popolo. RT's live stream reached 1.5 million viewers and gave them the impression that the exact opposite was actually happening.

As La Stampa points out, this is not the first time that Russian media aim to influence the political debate in Italy. The fabricated news report led to a complaint to the Russian authorities, and RT has since corrected the title of the report; however La Stampa still has the original screenshots. And as we have seen before, the damage is done once fake news has been spread.

Flooding the information space with fake news surrounding an event is a recurrent disinformation technique the Disinformation Digest has previously reported.  

But why would RT misrepresent the events concerning a referendum in Italy? We can only speculate, but the outcome of the referendum has been described as potentially having an impact not only on politics in Italy, but also on the eurozone as a whole
Friday Fun: This week, the Friday fun corner celebrates the @EUvsDisinfo Twitter account, which welcomed its 10.000th follower some days ago. Follow us on the social network for some fun and the latest on pro-Kremlin disinformation!
The Disinformation Review collects examples of pro-Kremlin disinformation all around Europe and beyond. Every week, it exposes the breadth of this campaign, showing the countries and languages targeted. We're always looking for new partners to cooperate with us for that.
The Disinformation Digest analyses how pro-Kremlin media see the world and what independent Russian voices say. It follows key trends on Russian social media, so you can put pro-Kremlin narratives into their wider context. And finally… some Friday fun before the weekend!
DISCLAIMER: The Disinformation Digest is based on the analysis of the EU East StratCom Task Force; opinions and judgements expressed do not represent official EU positions.
Copyright © 27/10/2016 European External Action Service. All rights reserved.

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