The Kremlin is no stranger to the finger being pointed at them, with many accusing the Russian government of creating their own fake news, but now they have adopted their own strategy: to take aim at reports it doesn’t like from mainstream media outlets in the West with its own website.
Armed with nothing more than a big red stamp that reads “fake”, a new page on the Russian foreign ministry website says it is “exposing” Western media for spreading “false information” about the country. Most dedicated fact-checking sites, such as Snopes and Politifact, scrutinise suspect stories in detail before reaching a verdict.
The New York Times, Daily Telegraph, NBC, and Bloomberg are among the publications that it believes are part of an “information campaign aimed against Russia.”
Below each story is this Orwellian message: “This article puts forward information that does not correspond to reality.” According to Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, this will apply to stories that cite anonymous or unverified sources or do not have an official reaction from the Russian government.
We at @mfa_russia have invented the fastest way to debunk “fake” news, we just say it’s fake without proving it. https://t.co/74GjtXJgUZ
— Soviet Sergey (@SovietSergey) February 22, 2017
At the same time, Zakharova’s colleague, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, outlined the Russian military’s gains in its ongoing information war. Shoigu said the Russian military’s “information troops” were successful in spreading “intelligent, effective propaganda,” but did not elaborate on which countries the propaganda was targeting.
What Russia considers “fake news”
- A Bloomberg story saying Russian hackers had been responsible for hacking the computer of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron.
- A New York Times report saying Russia secretly launched a new cruise missile in violation of an arms control treaty.
- A Daily Telegraph report quoting British government sources alleging Russia was involved in a plot to kill the Montenegrin prime minister in 2016.
- An NBC News story suggesting the Kremlin was about to hand over Edward Snowden to the U.S. to “curry favor” with the Trump administration.
- A Santa Monica Observer story about the “suspicious circumstances” surrounding the death of Russian U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin.
The Santa Monica Observer, unlike the other publications, does indeed have a history of publishing fake news, including one that said Tiffany Trump would sing, “I’m like a bird” at her father’s inauguration.
The lack of sophistication in the Kremlin’s methods doesn’t fall in line with their usual genius of media warfare and disinformation.
“No YOU’RE fake news,” Russian Foreign Ministry screams at reporters in big bold red letters. https://t.co/XWbBRFODF8 pic.twitter.com/J17U5otqie
— The Moscow Times (@MoscowTimes) February 22, 2017
According to Alexei Venediktov, the longtime editor of the Echo of Moscow radio station, inclusion on the list is only a positive thing: “You shouldn’t worry at all,” and that it’s “like a medal”.
The “fake news” phenomenon lives on
The European Union has created its own task force, known as East Stratcom, to combat “Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns.” More than a year since its creation, the organisation has identified and debunked 2,500 false stories.
New entrants into the war of terminology, the Kremlin appears to be joining the momentum that Trump has created by repeatedly bashing the free press in the US. He has used it to counter any negative polls or reports that surround his chaotic first month in power.
He has called the media, including New York Times, NBC, and CBS, “the enemy of the American people.” It’s not hard to see why Putin might want to use this same tactic in case any of Russia’s citizens read beyond the almost fully Kremlin-controlled state media in their own country.
Wonder if @mfa_russia‘s new fake news rubric will feature any news items, published by Russian state-run media: https://t.co/4vAamzswDw
— Ivan Nechepurenko (@INechepurenko) February 22, 2017
“It’s a dangerous and troubling situation for governments or individuals to simply assign the label of fake news to a story they don’t like, instead of challenging specific facts or offering counter evidence,” Eileen Murphy, a New York Times spokeswoman said. “We stand by our reporting.”