Fake Russian “Fact-Checkers” Spread Propaganda about the War in Ukraine

Фото: pixabay.com

Little is known about who is behind this Russian “fact-checking” website – “War on fakes”. The creators of the website identify themselves only as “administrators of several Russian non-political Telegram channels”, and not one of its authors is named. The site has no imprint, nor contact details or address. The fact-checking service of “Poynter” checked this website and deems its “fact-checks” as parts of disinformation that use well-known techniques of Russian propaganda – incoherence, large amount of claims, repetition of statements on obvious untruths – as to confuse the public trying to find out what is actually happening in Ukraine

Little is known about who is behind this Russian “fact-checking” website – “War on fakes. The creators of the website identify themselves only as “administrators of several Russian non-political Telegram channels”, and not one of its authors is named. The site has no imprint, nor contact details or address. The fact-checking service of “Poynter” checked this website and deems its “fact-checks” as parts of disinformation that use well-known techniques of Russian propaganda – incoherence, large amount of claims, repetition of statements on obvious untruths – as to confuse the public trying to find out what is actually happening in Ukraine

 

Author: Ana Anastasovska

 

A year ago, since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, Russia and its supporters have been trying aggressively to twist the role of Moscow in the war with what experts call highly-powerful weapon in its arsenal – disinformation campaigns.

Global fact-checkers – including Truthmeter – debunk on daily basis many lies that try to distract the attention from potential Russian war crimes or to smear its opponent.

Nevertheless, Russian channels for spreading disinformation do not stop and they apply various techniques for confusing the public. One such example is Telegram’s website and channel managed by Russia, that falsely claims to be doing fact-checks due to the “information war initiated against Russia”. More specifically the site (War against Fake News) claims in its “Manifest” that ”it is important to secure impartial information on what is going on in Ukraine and on Donbas territory, because we identify signs of initiated information war against Russia”.

4th March 2022, soon after Russia attacked Ukraine, this website published a text claiming that it was revealing the idea that the Ukrainians were fighting an information war against the Russians.

Not only were the Ukrainians disseminating “forgeries, productions and disinformation” as to portray Russian forces in a “hostile manner” – says the text – but they were also apparently using professional actors and video-editing software to stage visuals of dead Russian soldiers and devastated Ukrainian cities.

The fact-checking service of “Poynter” checked this website and deemed its “fact-checks” as parts of disinformation that use well-known techniques of Russian propaganda – incoherence, large amount of claims, repetition of statements on obvious untruths – to confuse the public trying to find out what is actually happening in Ukraine.

”War on Fakes” applies a common strategy with Russian propaganda: uses incorrect information to develop an ambient that makes the public suspect official sources of information and makes it incredible – midst numerous fake, deceitful and surreal claims about the war – to find the possible objective truth. All that is done through the fact-checking format. Readers who visit this site expect the final truth, but in fact are deceived, publishes Poynter.

Little is known who stands behind this Russian “fact-checking” website. The founders identify themselves as “administrators of several Russian non-political Telegram channels”, and none of its authors are named. The site has no imprint, contact details nor address.

 

How “War on Fakes” debunk “disinformation”?

Looking through the “fact-checks” of this website, we found a “Russian fact-check” related to the information about the shelling of the residential building in Dnipro when 46 persons were killed. As informed by the Ukrainian officials and experts, including the Center for Strategic and International Studies located in the USA, the residential building was hit by a Russian Kh-22 cruise missile.

The blasted nine-floor building was the epitome of the deadliest single attacks in Ukraine in the Russian invasion.

However, the website called “War on Fakes”, “exclusively” claims that the building was destroyed by an Ukrainian air defence missile.

Similar to the actual fact-checkers, “War on Fakes” uses visuals with the word “fake” impressed with bold red letters.

Recently, Truthmeter also wrote about Russia’s attempt to put the blame on Ukraine for blasting the building.

What is a fact is that the investigation proved that the building was hit by a Russian missile type Kh-22. This was published by foreign media, based on data from the Ukrainian air defence that published precisely where the attack came from, i.e. from the direction of Kursk in Russia. The main purpose of this powerful missile with long range, approximately 600 kilometres, designed in Soviet times to kill ships, i.e., designed as a anti-ship missile for main battleships – destroyers, cruisers or aircraft carriers. With the beginning of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, however, Russia started to use these missiles as heavy means for destroying targets on earth back in May 2022. In June, several such missiles devastated the shopping mall in Kremenchuk, thereby killing more than 20 civilians. They were usually fired from the air by TU – 22M strategic bombers.

 

The aim is to confuse the public and undermine the trust in authentic fact-checkers

Since Russia’s invasion, the “War on Fakes” initiative has become a powerhouse of spreading false debunks”. It is an effective tool of state propaganda and disinformation. It works primarily because fact-checking usually serves for readers as an “authoritative” source to seek “objective information”, says for AFP Roman Osadchuk from Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

Kidnapping the fact-checking format only enhances the invasion-related information war, as it is called by the analysts, thereby causing new challenges for authentic disinformation debunkers.

Fake fact-checks risk undermining trust in credible media and legitimate fact-checking insitutions. They can also warp perceptions of Ukraine and the West and make it seem as though facts about the war are impossible to obtain, stated for AFP Madeline Roache, from NewsGuard.

Frequently, “War on Fakes” published series of fact-checks on the same topic, sometimes with multiple opposed statements overwhelming the readers.

The aim is to confuse the audience, overload it. The ideal result will be a consumer who ends up saying “there are too many versions of events, it is impossible for me to find out where the truth is” stated for AFP Jakub Kalensky, senior analyst with the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats.

This is not the first time Russians rely on the fact-checking format for spreading disinformation. In 2017, the Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs initiated the project titled Unreliable Publications, as part of its website where it published fact-checks. The analysis of Ben Nimmo, at the time senor fellow at Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab showed that not one of the 11 stories published the first month of Unreliable Publications was credible.

In addition, in 2017, the state-owned television network RT initiated a news-project on its website called FakeCheck, that, as announced, aimed at ”separating the facts from fake news”. According to Nimmo, out of the nine articles published in the first two weeks of its establishment, four contained ”incorrect and possibly partial with irrelevant or insufficient evidence”.

 


This article has been produced within the project Fact-Checking the Progress of North Macedonia towards the EU, implemented by the Metamorphosis Foundation. The article, originally published by Truthmeter,, is made possible by the support of the American non-profit foundation NED (National Endowment for Democracy). The content of this article is the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, NED or their partners.

 

 

 

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