New Disinformation Digest from the East StratCom Task Force
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Two disinformation attacks on Russian dissenters

Disinformation is not only used by pro-Kremlin media to discredit foreign countries and create smoke screens in attempts to cover up the truth about Russian military aggression. Another frequent victim of disinformation is civil society inside Russia - people who raise their voice in favour of change and against abuse of power.

This week’s most prominent Russian victim of disinformation was opposition leader and corruption hunter Alexey Navalny who found himself portrayed as the owner of a hidden 3 million euro villa in France. The publication was clearly an attempt to let Mr Navalny taste his own medicine and make him look like a hypocrite, as he has become famous for finding and exposing real estate owned by Russian government officials whose publicly declared incomes do not match the houses and apartments they turn out to own.

The Rothschild family’s villa at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera, claimed to be the property of Alexey Navalny
Commenting on the allegations on Facebook, Alexey Navalny pointed towards a couple of irregularities in what the authors of the attack claimed was evidence: The villa shown as proof is in fact the Rothschild family’s villa at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera. In addition, in the alleged documentation, Navalny’s year of birth was mistakenly indicated as 2016.
In another recent media attack on Russian dissenters, it was environmentalists who got their share of disinformation. In a news item broadcast on Kremlin-loyal nationwide NTV, activists from the "Defenders of the Torfyanka Forest" movement were portrayed as worshippers of a pagan cult, and it was explained to viewers that this was the reason why the NGO had been advocating against construction work undertaken by the Russian Orthodox Church in a protected forest area outside Moscow. Footage showed the arrest of the activists, who were accused of having torn down a cross on the construction site, thereby making themselves guilty of blasphemy - a criminal charge that was introduced in Russia on the back of the famous case against Pussy Riot.
This week the East StratCom Task Force released a new video on the EU vs Disinformation Facebook page. The vox-pop demonstrates how Europeans themselves react to one of the popular narratives about Europe in pro-Kremlin media, namely that people in Europe don’t feel safe in the streets any more. The reactions are voiced in a variety of European languages and with Russian subtitles. The video follows up on last week’s video in which EU citizens disproved the pro-Kremlin narrative about “Russophobia” among Europeans.

A self-help guide: What can I do to counter fake news stories?

As we reported last week in the Disinformation Digest, fake news stories and their possible influence on national election campaigns have been widely debated since the US presidential elections, and have led to initiatives from Facebook and Google to stop the spread of fake news.

We have also seen a number of other initiatives to counter the spread of disinformation such as manipulated pictures, fake publishers or websites or events being described as something they are not.

This week, the BBC published a list of useful tips on things everyone can do to stop the spread of fake news, with a focus on what to consider before sharing stories on social media. Earlier this month, the BBC also presented a guide on how to spot fake news.   
On Monday, StopFake published a list of suggestions for platforms, publishers and users in "Call for Cooperation Against Fake News".

First Draft News, which was launched in June 2015, has issued a collection on Fakes and Hoaxes for keeping you informed, as well as guidance on how to verify stories, which can be used both by journalists and their audiences.

Last week we reported about the new fact checking portal in Denmark. Sweden has had a similar portal since 2014. Also in Germany, as Zeit Online has reported, the site has been collecting fake news stories and tracing them from rumours spread in social media to media reports since the summer of 2015, using an interactive map of Germany. And don't forget a modern classic in identifying disinformation, Ben Nimmo's "ABC test".

Finally, if you want to join forces with others in countering disinformation, become a part of East Stratcom's Disinformation spotting network by writing directly to us on
This Wednesday the European Parliament adopted a resolution "On EU Strategic Communications to Counteract Propaganda Against it by Third Parties". In her remarks on the resolution, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini said:

"Let me thank the Parliament for its close interest and support for the work we are doing. As the report states, exposing disinformation is an important task. It is clear from the Task Force’s work that the challenge coming from disinformation is not receding".

Racist propaganda on Russian state TV

In his notorius "Vesti nedeli" talk show on the Russian state-owned channel Rossiya, Dmitry Kiselev found it worthwhile to use his airtime to liken US President Barack Obama to a monkey. Commenting on the meeting between the President and President-elect Donald Trump, Mr Kiselev noted that "there, Trump behaved like an English lord, while Obama was throwing his arms about as if he was in the jungle.”

As Moscow Times reports in a detailed article in English, this part of the talk show was later edited out, and in versions now available online on TV Rossiya's website, Obama "was throwing his arms about, as if he was in the open air”. However, the original version with the jungle comment is also available online thanks to alert Russian internet users.

Besides having his own talk show, Dmitry Kiselev is the CEO of the Rossiya Segodnya media house, which includes both the foreign language propaganda outlet Sputnik and the newswire agency RIA Novosti. Dmitry Kiselev is on the List of persons and entities under EU restrictive measures over the territorial integrity of Ukraine and known by many as the talk show host who threatened the US with being turned into “radioactive dust”. (See the Disinformation Review 18/10)
Friday Fun: "Would you mind thinking into this tester?", a representative of the "Censorship Police" asks in this comment to modern Russian society from Russian cartoonist Sergey Elkin's hand (Source: DW Russian).
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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