Alongside celebrity gossip, some prominent US publications feature news articles from Russian media houses. US Intelligence identifies these as sources of “Russian propaganda” targeted at manipulating the Elections.
What do you think had the biggest impact on US presidential elections 2016:
In a recent interview, Democrat running-mate Kamala Harris made no bones about voter suppression being at play. She said:
I am clear that Russia interfered in the election of president of the United States in 2016,
With the 2020 US Presidential Election less than three weeks away, there is a close watch on every political development in the US. A Wall Street Journal report claims that over the past two years the home page of RealClear Politics, an American news and analysis website, has been putting up news articles from RT.com.
Over the past two years the home page of RealClear Politics, an American news and analysis website, has been putting up news articles from RT.com.
What is RT.com
Launched in 2005, RT, formally Russia Today, is an autonomous, non-profit organization publicly financed from the budget of the Russian Federation. Broadcast in Moscow, RT America airs from Washington and is available in over 100 countries. The website, RT.com gets its traffic from a variety of sources, one of which is Mixi.media.
What does “From our partners link” mean on the site?
Alongside the celebrity gossip one can find news articles from Russian based media outlets, on some prominent US publications including Real Clear Politics. Interestingly, the origin of such articles are not quite conspicuous to the eye. US Intelligence has identified these news articles as sources of “Russian propaganda”.
After concerns of Russian interference in 2016 US Presidential elections, a US Intelligence report was released in 2017 that mentioned Russia’s involvement in a variety of ways. A report of the Select Committee on Intelligence US Senate (2019) states that Russian operatives used social media to spread disinformation and societal divisions in the US. “Masquerading as Americans these operatives used targeted advertisements, intentionally falsified news articles, self-generated content, and social media platform tools to interact with and attempt to deceive tens of millions of social media users in the United States”.
Propaganda is a manipulation of psychological symbols having goals of which the listener is not conscious.Jacques Ellul [PROPAGANDA- The Formation of Men’s attitudes]
“During the weekend beginning Friday February 19, 2010 just weeks before the start of the 2010 British general election campaign, Labor Party President Gordon Brown became the subject of the extraordinary media spectacle. Quickly labeled “bullygate,” it centered on Brown’s alleged psychological and physical mistreatment of colleagues working inside his office in Number 10, Downing Street”, says Andrew Chadwick in his book The Hybrid Media System.
Chadwick further explains that bullygate was potentially the most damaging political development of Brown’s tenure because of its timing i.e. on the verge of elections, and went on to become a national and international news phenomenon. So, essentially it is not just the nature of the news but also the timing of its publication that is crucial. One big negative news story can drastically reduce a candidate’s chances of electoral survival. But what about slow and gradual doses of news coverage over a long period aiming to have a similar impact?
Watch: “60 Minutes” confronts Russia’s state-run media RT on election meddling
How is “misinformation” being circulated?
As the spread of information on prominent US news websites was initially done through social media organizations, they started labelling the respective content including the adverts from those outlets, as coming from foreign state-controlled media outlets. “Pages of overtly state-run news agencies such as Russia’s RT and Sputnik, and China’s Xinhua News and the People’s Daily, will be labelled as such. At least 18 news outlets’ pages, with hundreds of millions of followers, will receive the label”. Twitter, YouTube and Instagram have all taken similar steps in an attempt to maintain transparency and clarity. However, RT eventually found another way to reach Americans post 2018 when it experienced reduced traffic owing to the aforesaid measures by the social media organizations.
RT eventually found another way to reach Americans post 2018 when it experienced reduced traffic owing to the restrictions by the social media organizations.
The Wall Street Journal’s investigative journalist’s team found that certain news outlets were a part of a distribution network that permits other members’ content to be exhibited on their home pages. Mixi Media is one such organization. For example, visitors to the page of RealClear Politics could find some links from RT.com, mostly at the bottom of their page. The links that Mixi puts on its partner websites often appeared as, “From Our Partners” headings. “If readers see RT, they are going to freak out,” says Alex Baron, Mixi’s founder.
Mixi is major source of RT’s traffic from American readers and is essentially a traffic swapping network. According to web analytics from Similarweb.com, a website traffic statistics and analytics company, Mixi delivers more traffic to RT than YouTube, Reddit or Twitter. Moreover, some publishers hosting Mixi’s content claimed they were unaware about RT being a part of Mixi’s network.
So, users are first directed to a transit page on Mixi’s website which features links to the original headline along with other headlines from various publishers that Mixi aggregates.
“The means of communication which are the signs of the highest forms of civilization are the most perfect by aid of electricity simply because they are instantaneous. There is no competition against instantaneousness”Erastus Wiman, President of the Great Northwestern Telegraph Company of Canada, 1899
“RealClearPolitics, ZeroHedge and Newsmax, three of the top 10 recipients of Mixi’s traffic, have had RT stories appear recently in their content-recommendation sections operated by Mixi”, claims the WSJ report.
Nevertheless, Russian media is under the radar of intelligence agencies for any kind of influence they may exert on American voters and US elections through propaganda. Interestingly, there is and will always remain an audience for such news content too! With a little over a month to go, US voters need to remain wary of the content that might try to sway them as voters, for this unprecedented Presidential election in 2020.
Watch: A timeline of Russian Propaganda targeted at US Elections