Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

EU East StratCom Task Force: The Half-Truth, a Little of the Truth and a Lot of Stuff Besides the Truth

9 May 2019


The Half-Truth, a Little of the Truth and a Lot of Stuff Besides the Truth

Sometimes facts can be disinformation. Taken out of context, a quote, a number, a statement or a picture can be deceiving, while factually correct. Lies work more effectively, when they are supported by something factual; something real, something true.

A picture, published by the pro-Kremlin disinformation outlet Sputnik, is a good example of this. Two smiling young men, in front of the burning Notre Dame. The picture itself has been discussed – doctored or not? Sputnik reassures that it is an authentic picture of two young students at the scene, and states that they “did not attract the attention of our correspondent neither during the photo shoot, nor when the photo was published”.

Funny, did the photographer shoot only one frame? Didn’t Sputnik have any other choice, than to publish this very picture? As Kremlin Propagandiste Extraordinaire Dmitriy Kiselyovwould say: “A coincidence? I don’t think so!”
Of course, the reality is that this picture was carefully selected among dozens, even hundreds of frames shot by Sputnik’s photographers. Because this one suited Sputnik’s narrative. And Sputnik didn’t then have to instruct the trolls – they knew how to use the photo.

Half-Truths and Full Lies

The French news agency AFP performed an investigation on the story of the picture. It was picked up by far right American and French sites and used to “prove” the Muslims’ reaction to the fire. The two young men in the picture describe to AFP how they in a few hours became the target of international racism.

Other examples of “fact-based disinformation” this week:

Pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets are mastering the art of almost not lying. But a half-truth can be just as deceiving as a lie.

News Front Blames the Jews

Of course, there is no shortage of blatant lying as well: pro-Kremlin media continue to repeat fantasies claiming that the illegal Crimean annexation was anything but Moscow land-grabbing; about Ukraine being controlled by nazis, supported by French President Macron; and about EU Vice President and High Representative Federica Mogherini preferring travels to Havana before Kyiv.

Lies, half-truths, one-percent-truths – the pro-Kremlin disinformation machine certainly has an impact. US based cybersecurity firm SafeGuard Cyber estimates, according to, that “half the population of the EU-countries may have been exposed to some form of Russian-backed disinformation campaign”. The focus for the campaign is the large EU countries, like Germany. Russia-based sites in German, like News Front and South Front, are eager to present anti-migration and anti-EU topics, spicing them up with some anti-Semitic material on “The Jewish Soul of the Bolshevik Revolution“. Sputnik Deutschland keeps parroting how voting in the election to the European Parliament is worthless.

Moscow has mobilised a noisy disinformation campaign to target the EU elections in May, juggling full lies, half-truths, facts and pictures taken out of context; spinning stories, only remotely connected to reality.

It’s a twisted version of the oath “The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth”: The oath of the Kremlin disinformation outlets is “The Half-Truth, a Little of the Truth and a Lot of Stuff Besides the Truth”.

The campaign is loud and obnoxious, but there are methods to find the facts, the truth, the real stories. Check out our tool box for fact-checking and let us, as voters and citizens, keep fighting for clean and fair elections.

Click here for the FULL COLLECTION of recent stories repeating disinformation.


A Disillusioned Democrat

The Russian top propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov offers not just “fake news”, but a service that can help to keep a government in power.

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Figure of the Week: 52.8%

Proverb of a pro-Kremlin outlet: if 52.8% of respondents don’t fit into your story, just ignore them.

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Hyped Russian Robot Turns Out to be Korean

“Russian military robots perform workout exercises in front of Putin,” a Russian state news agency reported. But that wasn’t quite right.

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Every Thursday, the Disinformation Review brings you the latest cases of news articles carrying key examples of how pro-Kremlin disinformation finds its way in international media, as well as news and analysis on the topic. The review focuses on key messages carried in international media which have been identified as providing a partial, distorted or false view or interpretation and/or spreading key pro-Kremlin messaging. It does not necessarily imply however that the outlet concerned is linked to the Kremlin or that it is pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. The Review is a compilation of cases from the East Stratcom Task Force’s wide network of contributors and therefore cannot be considered an official EU position. Likewise, the news articles are based on the analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force, so information and opinions expressed there cannot be considered an official EU position. Any errors or misrepresentations should be reported to the East Stratcom Task Force for correction at
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