Russia funded news websites in Eastern Europe to pump out propaganda: report
PR dla Zagranicy
Russia's government discreetly funded seemingly independent news websites in Eastern Europe to produce stories dictated to them by the Kremlin, according to a report.
The Kremlin. Photo: Ludvig14 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Russian state media outlets set up secret companies in order to bankroll websites in the Baltic states and elsewhere in Eastern Europe as well as Central Asia, the US-based BuzzFeed News website has reported.
“The scheme worked like this: Money was channeled through shell companies outside of Russia, direct editorial orders were delivered via Skype, and the sites reported back the headlines they published, while they also bought clicks and tested buying comments from Russian troll factories to boost numbers,” BuzzFeed News said.
The news website said it and its reporting partners—Estonian newspaper Postimees and investigative journalism outlet Re:Baltica—have obtained Skype logs and other documents that “continue until summer 2016” and offer a “rare glimpse into the inner workings of the Kremlin’s propaganda machine.”
The documents have been obtained “via freedom of information laws,” as part of a criminal probe into an individual who was “Moscow’s man on the ground in Estonia,” BuzzFeed News said.
The Skype logs and other files “reveal the secrets and obfuscating tactics used by Russia as it tries to influence public opinion and push Kremlin talking points,” according to BuzzFeed News.
The news websites portrayed themselves as independent, but in reality "editorial lines were dictated directly by Moscow," BuzzFeed News said.
It cited Raul Rebane, a strategic communications expert in Estonia, as saying that this scheme and others like it were “systemic information-related activities on foreign territory. In other words — information warfare.”
Russian propaganda networks have been in operation for years but have become more intense recently, Rebane said, as quoted by BuzzFeed News.