The fight against fake news

Recently at the dinner table one of my friends noticed that it is good that Americans are so actively building up arms right at Russian doorstep — for example, by placing 3 500 tanks. When I told him that he was the victim of Russian disinformation broadcast by unscrupulous media and that the correct figure pertaining to placed the tanks are less than 100, he hesitated a little. So I had to get documents, confirming the correctness of my assertion, and to send him as an example of the misinformation that bombard us.

The analysis performed by the analytical center Atlantic Council”s Digital Forensic Research, showed how it arose and how to spread this myth. Started this site in Donetsk, which is without any documentary evidence claimed that the U.S. is preparing for war with Russia, placing 3 600 tanks in Europe. In this website the news spread via the well-known channels in the guided and funded by the Russian network mass media, spreading misinformation, and the story of a fictitious number of tanks and got to the Western media, particularly Newspapers such as The Independent, and the Swedish Radio (where the misunderstanding was quickly eliminated). What is truth? Indeed, the American tanks sent to Europe, it was part of the ongoing buildup of NATO forces in Poland and the Baltic countries. The correct figure is 87. Eighty-seven. That is, not 3 600 — or “thousands”, news of which spread by some media.

My friend was aggrieved on hearing this. What the hell to believe after that? he said.

Good question in the days when the highest circles are sent to “alternative facts.”

We are vulnerable to this kind of information. We have — and it’s great! — is the Western journalistic tradition: we prefer to look at everything from two sides. We call it “trim”. But when one party to a blatant lie, “balance” turns out not too well…

The other day I gave a journalist an interview about strained relations with Russia. I was asked a question: “is NATO not to some extent responsible for the fact that the situation is now so tense? Because NATO is increasing its weapons near Russia’s borders. Do we have the same aggressive behavior as that of Russia? Do we really provoke Russia, especially as many exercises that NATO conducts?

It’s good and quite reasonable questions, completely in the spirit of the tradition to consider everything from both sides.

Here are a couple of facts that I gave in the response (the result, probably, can be heard Monday on the Radio 24/7).

And you know that as recently as in 2008, Russia participated in a large exercise, conducted annually in the Baltic sea, Baltops? Then on Bornholm during the week there were many Russian soldiers, Russian and Danish soldiers together practiced skills of cooperation in the fight against terror, in particular, learned to use weapons to each other. The exercises were held in the framework of NATO program “Partnership for peace”, in which Russia took an active part. After the end of the cold war has been done in order to attract Russia to cooperate with NATO. Few weeks after the exercise was followed by Russian intervention in Georgia, and since then similar exercises are no longer conducted.

Instead, Russia has held several large-scale exercises, which was attended by tens of thousands of troops. Was broken agreements in the OSCE on the limitation and transparency of military exercises. In particular, during the exercises practiced in the capture of Bornholm and Gotland. Simulated nuclear attack on Stockholm and Warsaw, conducted the exercises, which simulated an air attack on Bornholm. It was in the midst of the people’s Assembly, when the island was all of the Danish political elite — And then Russia seized Crimea and started the war in the East of Ukraine, which last week erupted with renewed force.

In such a situation, NATO has been forced to conduct exercises and to deploy troops in the Baltic States and Poland — as well as in Norway, where only just arrived 300 us Marines to demonstrate a willingness to protect are included in the Alliance of the country from attack, if it happens. This aggressive? Aggressive exercise in the defense against the enemy, who is practicing in the attack?

It is quite clear that whenever NATO strengthens the defense, causing protests and misinformation in Moscow, it is often, unfortunately, finds its way to the Western media and those who shape public opinion, who often wants to “balance” the position…

How do you counter that? Response: more serious journalism, when professional journalists have the necessary resources to verify its stories.

Unfortunately, the major media are experiencing difficulties because of the current technological development, which attracts money to new media, is widely open for further spread of misinformation. So it is important that support services are able to expose the misinformation we are subjected to. And this business of professional journalists: to ensure that the propaganda does not spread in any other way.