I discovered this wonderful website, Web Sites Which Publish Fake News and Other Hoaxes , almost purely by accident, researching something almost entirely unrelated to my normal subjects.
I was researching a probable hoax about a historical event and discovered this. As I glanced through, a few of the websites were oddly familiar. Many are Russian news and Russian proxy news sites.
These websites are often used for “news releases” which aren’t quite right.
Update. Here are a few updates.
Many others I have seen and ignored, but these are used by the Russians not normally as “fake news” sites, but fake sites posing as a real, legitimate news site. Recently IndiaTimes.com has been used by the Russians, but I’m not ready to post them as a full-time fake site. They’re working on it however.
A few more clues. Here are some keywords which are in the URL, the website name, and/or in the title/headline:
- Alternate or alternative
- Luhansk or Lugansk
- Ukrop (but don’t forget there is a legitimate Ukraine Ukrop party)
Just a heads up for fellow researchers. Today a group of us were discussing an article in “The Nation” which appeared to be blatant pro-Russian propaganda, designed to undermine Western efforts to counter Russian propaganda. I looked at the author and discovered he was involved with the “American Committee for East-West Accord”. That struck a chord, so I did a search on a recent blog I wrote, on 1 April. Bingo, “American Committee for East-West Accord” showed up again. A few of us will be exploring this topic more.
Agents of Influence, Useful Idiots, Talking Heads, all terms for possible and probable Russophiles and their groups. I’m working on something else at the moment that actually pays, so I do not have sufficient time to devote to this topic, but it is worth pursuing.
I was recently chatting with a reporter who asked me to describe my blog. Is this a “News Aggregator” or do I write all my own source material? My answer is both. I want to provide a lasting archive of all the articles about Russian propaganda as well as preserve examples of Russian propaganda. I’m using 2+ years of this blog as an archive for my paying job, for source and reference material. There is no guarantee the articles are preserved or will be, so I’m just making sure…
A small group of morally-challenged individuals have discovered that there is a great deal of money to be made by publishing fake news articles. These rags publish ridiculous headlines like “Monsanto is Killing Your Children”, “Ukrainians Worship the Devil”, and “Hillary Clinton’s Secret Affair with Vladimir Putin”. These inflammatory headlines are then promoted though social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. The owners of these sites make money from ads that display on their sites when people read the articles. It appears that the more inflammatory and unbelievable the headline, the better it spreads through social media. Debunking these stories can be almost impossible, as the “facts” they contain are unverifiable and therefore unfalsifiable. Although there is no evidence that Hillary Clinton is having an affair with Vladimir Putin, there is also not evidence that she is not having an affair with Vladimir Putin.
A few of these web sites may be run by truly insane people who actually believe what they publish, but if so that is a small minority. One of the proofs of this is how obviously fake the articles are. Old and heavily debunked articles from several years age are routinely updated with new dates and names and republished as new stories. Some site owners may believe that they are trying to shift public opinion by convincing the public to believe outrageous lies. Followers of this Overton Window theory believe that by making wildly unbelievable and bombastic claims, their slightly less unbelievable claims will feel more acceptable to readers. While this certainly may be true, that does not make it a morally acceptable strategy for discussing public policy. Other site owners may feel that they are simply “talking to their base” and that this relieves them of any moral duty to tell the truth. This is a reflection of the sad state of moral thinking in our society today. A few sites claim to be “humor” or “satire” sites and exist mainly to provide links which people can use to fool unsuspecting victims on social media. These sites will sometimes post a disclaimer in the site footer, but often these disclaimers will disappear and reappear over time. A small number of sites on our list are simply government-funded propaganda sites which post ridiculous claims from tyrannical governments which want to improve their public image or attack the public images of their opponents.
The sites on the list below are a mix of all of these types of sites. Strict categorization is not simple as many of these sites exist in multiple categories or switch between categories based upon whatever proves to be most profitable at the current time.
Each of these sites may, at times, publish legitimate news articles. This is a useful technique for making the illegitimate articles harder to spot. The fact that a home burglar doesn’t rob houses three nights a week does not make him any less of a home burglar. The fact that some of these sites occasionally posts a legitimate article does not make the publication itself legitimate. Any news site will occasionally publish a poorly-researched article. To earn a spot on this list, the publication must show a clear disregard for the objective truth. We all know how terribly mainstream media outlets like ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN fail to promote legitimate news stories. The promise of alternative media is that we can do better than traditional centralized mass-media. The publishers listed above are purposefully failing to do better. They are actually doing a worse job than the mainstream media — something many of us once thought impossible.