Friday, August 18, 2017

Experts sound alarm over news websites' fake news twins

Graham Ruddick
Aug. 18, 2017

Fake articles made to look like they have been published by legitimate news websites have emerged as a new avenue for propaganda on the internet, with experts concerned about the increasing sophistication of the latest attempts to spread disinformation.

Kremlin supporters are suspected to be behind a collection of fraudulent articles published this year that were mocked up to appear as if they were from al-Jazeera, the Atlantic, Belgian newspaper Le Soir, and the Guardian.

The creators of the articles made them look genuine at first glance by building doppelganger sites that have domain names extremely similar to the news organisations they are purporting to be. The stories were then pushed out to the world through sharing on social media and other websites – often Russian – following up on the article.


Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council digital forensic research lab and an expert in the spread of disinformation, warned that the fake articles were still having an impact even after they have been debunked and that the misuse of English might not even matter if the main target of the propaganda were Russian speakers.


Even after the articles are proven to be fake they are still being spread. Ren TV, which has a history of producing pro-Kremlin content, did a piece portraying the removal of the article as a deletion by the Guardian of a true article, an angle also taken by an Armenian outlet following the fake Haaretz piece on the Azerbaijani first family.

Creating fake foreign articles and then seeing them followed up by domestic news providers is a propaganda technique that Russia is accused of using before. In 1983 the KGB allegedly placed a story in a Indian journal that claimed Aids was a product of US military research. This story was then followed up by Soviet organisations and spread around the world.


For now the most effective approach appears to be ensuring that the articles are swiftly taken down from the internet after they are published and ensuring Google and the social media giants remove references and links to the article.

But even then, the propagandists may have already achieved their aim. “With any fake all it takes is for one genuine outlet to broadcast and you have laundered the narrative,” Nimmo said. “Once it’s out there its hard to convince people it’s a fake.”

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