New Disinformation Digest from the East StratCom Task Force
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New initiatives against fake news

Initiatives against fake news online are proliferating these days. Today, we present you three new initiatives in France, the Eastern Partnership region and the UK, as seen on First Draft News.
The French Newspaper Le Monde has set up a unit dedicated to fact-checking called Les Décodeurs, reports Digiday UK. Although fact-checking is surely crucial in any professional newsroom, with the current impact of fake news there is a need to step up the efforts to counter the spread of hoaxes, says Samuel Laurent, the head of Les Décodeurs. Le Monde also plans to design a hoax-busting database which will enable readers to access information about fake sites as well as verified sites and eventually, news from fake sites would show with a red flag. The first phase of the initiative will be launched in January 2017 and the goal is to have the platform fully running by the end of next year, aiming at becoming an international database.
In NiemanLab, we read that Reuters has built a prediction and verification tool to detect breaking news from Twitter posts. Accordingly, Reuters designed its algorithm to assign verification scores to tweets based on 40 factors, including whether the report is from a verified account, how many people follow those who reported the news, whether the tweets contain links and images, and, in some cases, the structure of the tweets themselves. The factors are combined to give a score, and those stories that meet the set verification threshold give Reuters enough confidence to tweet a breaking news story about it. The tool works best for events that are reported by many people simultaneously, and it has given Reuters a head start with breaking news but can also help in bringing verified information to the public fast in the event of an emergency.

This week also saw the official launch of another 'new kid on the block' in the sphere of creating awareness of Kremlin-backed disinformation. lie-detects claims made by the Russian government and the Kremlin-loyal media. You can make friends with the newcomer on Facebook, Twitter and visit their website. comes to us in English from the journalists working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America. Its Russian-language cousin, "Smotri v oba" (literally 'Look out!'), carries similar myth-busting, but in the form of videos under the auspices of the online service Current Time TV.

”To preserve traditional Russian spiritual and moral values”

The key words in Russia’s new information security doctrine, which President Putin approved on Tuesday, are “traditional Russian spiritual and moral values”. The sixteen-page document returns to this concept at three key points, making it clear that “preservation” of these values is a matter of “national security”. We also learn that these values are at risk of being “undermined” from abroad, “primarily among young people”, and that these attempts should be “neutralised”. The document does not specify what these values are.
In addition, the doctrine codifies a series of ideas that have already become known as fundamental in the Kremlin’s view of Russia’s relationship with the surrounding world:
  • We meet the so-called foreign agents in the guise of “groups of citizens” who support "certain [foreign] states” in their attempts to achieve “psychological and information influence” in order “destabilise the internal political situation [in Russia]”;
  • We learn that private media owners are “shareholders” in national security and that there ought to be a “balance between citizens’ need for free exchange of information and limits that are tied to necessity of providing national information security”;
  • We see the narrative that Russian media are victims of “discrimination” abroad and see Russia’s international disinformation campaign referred to as the need to “create awareness about the Russian government’s policies and official positions abroad”.
What is new in the doctrine is the suggestion that Russia should try to reach international acceptance of “equal rights” with regards to its national information interests (Point 29G in the doctrine). Does this imply a long term goal to have Russia’s right to control its information space accepted internationally on a par with a country’s right to have its territorial integrity respected?
"Europe will soon legalise paedophilia". This is one of the more bizarre false news stories that appeared in the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign against the EU. Among the media that have relayed the story is the online version of the Pravda newspaper (31 May 2016). The message is clear: Europe is in moral and political decay! We went out in Brussels and asked Europeans if they could verify the story. By clicking on the image above, you can see what they answered.

The Moscow connection

When Latvian blogger Janis Polis noticed a change on his Facebook feed, he started to research. "I decided to do this research because one day I noticed a sudden influx of very aggressive headlines from weird sources on my Facebook timeline," he said to the Latvian public broadcaster. He investigated suspicious 'news' sites in Latvian and Russian with big audiences, including "Toma Joki" that is likely the most popular Facebook page in Latvia.
All sites were very similar: catchy headlines, no authors credited for the articles, no contacts to the newsroom. And promoting messages that are known to be in line with pro-Kremlin narratives: disloyalty to the state, calling for the parliament to be sacked and giving the impression that everything is bad in Latvia.
Toma Joki is one of the Facebook pages investigated by Janis Polis.
What Mr Polis found was surprising to him: Several websites had the same owner, who took control of Toma Joki and several other 'news sites' this autumn. The owner, who years ago changes his Latvian name to a more Russian-sounding one, has ties to a well-known Latvian agitator, who was under Security Police investigation over pro-Kremlin propaganda during the illegal annexation of Crimea.

"I didn't really expect to stumble upon potential Moscow money links on my first try but here we are. I hope that my posts gain some exposure so at least a few more people would start to think before they repost something online," says the blogger.
Read the full article in English.

Not what you are for, but what are you against

As Buzzfeed reports, the staff of Kremlin-sponsored Russia Today (RT) in the UK was rather upset at the rumour that Katie Hopkins, a columnist from the Daily Mail and a vocal supporter of Donald Trump, might become a presenter on RT.
“We used to like to challenge dominant narratives from the left, but since the migrant crisis there’s been a massive shift to the right,” an RT collaborator said to Buzzfeed. Another RT staff member explained: “The readership of the website in particular is obsessed with Muslims and ridiculously in love with any kind of conspiracy theorist.”
Perhaps the surprised staff at RT hasn't seen this interview with Alexander Dugin: This political scientist with close ties to the Kremlin and the Russian military explained in 2012 how Russia should look for allies – and described the strategy of pro-Kremlin disinformation: "What we are against will unite us, while what we are for divides us. Therefore, we should emphasize what we oppose. The common enemy unites us, while the positive values each of us are defending actually divide us. Therefore, we must create strategic alliances to overthrow the present order of things, of which the core could be described as human rights, anti-hierarchy, and political correctness – everything that is the face of the Beast, the anti-Christ or, in other terms, Kali-Yuga." (Image of Aleksander Dugin: BBC)
Friday Fun: Pro-Kremlin media have a tendency to detect Nazism appearing in Russia's neighbourhood – especially when those countries don't rush to align themselves with the Kremlin's policies. Last week, it was Ukraine that was accused of Nazism, and this week, it became Latvia's turn. Journalists from RT (Russia Today) identified these traditional Latvian symbols in a park in Riga as a sign of Latvian devotion to the ideology of Adolf Hitler. Find out more about Latvian traditional dresses and symbols(Image: RT on Facebook).
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 © 09/12/2016 European External Action Service. All rights reserved.

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