The concept of fake news is one born out of the 2016 United States presidential contest between Republican Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and was a charge leveled by Trump at any negative press coverage of his campaign. The phrase caught on and was used by his supporters to deride coverage from CNN and The New York Times, among others.
Fake news as a label is meant to discredit the other side’s reporting as biased, counter-factual, or even completely fabricated. In other contexts, fake news refers to websites which are believed to spout propaganda that soothes partisan fears and stokes the polarity of the electorate by dividing everything into an us versus them approach. Wikipedia has one of the better definitions of fake news, which it calls, “a type of yellow journalism that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media.” This article will focus on the headlines often cited by both camps as being “fake news” as well as link to articles from other websites that purport to monitor fake news around the Internet.
No judgment is offered whatsoever as to the veracity of the cited article’s claims nor of that of its detractors. Here are some of the headlines found currently on Stop Fake News that deal with a Russian information campaign spread throughout Ukraine to convince people of the corruption of the Ukrainian government in Kyiv.
Here are some of the recent headlines on Stop Fake News.
Stop Fake News cites this headline as arising from website Inforeaktor and that it misappropriates content from Yevhen Yaroshenko writing for the International Center for Policy Studies official website Apostrof, which “erroneously connects the Association Agreement with EU membership, and concludes that while the latest EU-Ukraine summit didn’t advance Ukraine’s interests in EU membership, it maintains the existing status-quo between Kyiv and Brussels.”
This story originates from Russian state media and describes a meeting between Ukrainian and European Union leaders as ending in failure. Stop Fake News cites comments from the European Commission President to the contrary, “Ukraine had taken more steps in the last three years than in the previous twenty and should be proud of what it has achieved” as well as articles from the Wall Street Journal and Politico, which highlighted growing tensions over regional issues but not a “cooling” of the relationship between the EU and Ukraine.
Stop Fake News cites information coming from Russian Defense Ministry channel Zvezda about a poll conducted by the Gorshenin Institute of Ukrainian citizens that found one in four considers himself a citizen of the Soviet Union and one in twenty consider himself ethnic Russian. Fake News notes how the media manipulated the numbers to report such a high percentage of Soviet-affirming citizens, noting that the data actually shows approximately one quarter of those poll respondents who consider themselves ethnic Russians see themselves as citizens of the Soviet Union – in other words, a large subset of a subset. Stop Fake News notes that statistical data manipulation is a popular propaganda technique.
According to Stop Fake News, Russian website Ukraina.ru is spreading around misinformation with regard to G20 countries and the Minsk Agreements. If you will recall, the Minsk Agreements are the documents sealing peace between Russian, Ukrainian, and Ukrainian separatist forces in 2015. This website is saying that G20 nations are telling Ukraine it is in violation of these agreements and is based on a comment by Russian presidential representative Dmitry Peskov. No comments by G20 country leaders in the strain of condemnation could be found. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both talked about how difficult and slow the process was, Chancellor Merkel commenting: “[P]rogress has been very, very slow – with stagnation in some cases, relapses in others. We didn’t gloss over the situation.”
Russian media is reporting the Polish ambassador to the Ukraine, Jan Pieklo, is calling on Western powers to lead the construction of Yugoslavia-type federation of states for Ukraine’s future. Again citing information from Ukraina.ru, Stop Fake News finds information from an interview Pieklo conducted with Ukrainian magazine Fokus that shows the ambassador saying he does not think the current process is working and that the situation in Yugoslavia was not settled until NATO and the United States of America intervened, a different scenario than the need to restructure Ukraine’s government at a fundamental level.
Russian media apparently paints a lot of Ukraine’s Parliament-authorized de-communization as “fascism” and often describes its actions as such in media. These are seen as attempts to diminish the Soviet contribution during World War II. Multiple Russian websites have reported on plans to get rid of the Soviet monument in the Ukrainian city of Lviv. The 1970 monument is the Monument to the War Glory of the Soviet Army and demonstrates the various levels of service of Soviet military and civilian men and women during World War II. According to Lviv City Hall, the monument is due for repair, not destruction.
Stop Fake News found that Russia’s Vremya Pokazhet also helped further a fake news disinformation campaign in its reporting that popular Ukrainian musicians were performing concerts in Russia with great enthusiasm. As Stop Fake News comments, “Russian fakes about Ukraine are not only focused on Ukrainian politics, but also on its culture and pop stars.” Ukrainian musicians that perform in Russia face harsh criticism back home in Ukraine and popular Ukrainian performers Okean Elzy encountered a string of problems with their ongoing tour which coincided with the anti-Russian demonstrations gripping Ukraine in 2013.
Russian state media agency is reporting that people living in the Donbas areas of the Ukraine are traveling to the Donetsk People’s Republic for free medical treatment. Stop Fake News says that RT cites the difficulty of receiving medical treatment in the Donbas areas as reasons why Ukrainian citizens are forced to go into a basically Russian-controlled territory for treatment. This is a recurrent story according to SFN which calls it propaganda.
Ukraina.ru reports that the Donetsk People’s Republic will be opening a center in France very soon. Not to rain on DDR’s parade, however, according to reports out of the French government and in communications conveyed to the Ukrainian government representatives in France, Paris has no intention of recognizing the pro-Russian people’s republic.
This story is about Ukrainian citizens and their right to visa-free travel within the European Union. Fake news media sources have alleged that this will increase sex and drug trafficking out of the Ukraine in an attempt to undermine Ukraine’s integration with its EU allies. In this article on Stop Fake News, again Ukraina.ru is accused of spreading misinformation with regard to a Ukrainian family attempting to enter Bulgaria without visas but being unable to do so, using this story as evidence that the EU visa-free travel guarantees are not real. Stop Fake News found out that ultimately it had to do with the incompetence of the tour group operator and not the family’s visa situation, but the story has conveniently forgotten that fact in the retelling.
This time pro-Russian media is taking a speech by former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma out of context, saying, “Catastrophic consequences of European integration for the Ukrainian economy, Kyiv hostile towards the EU, the European Union is bringing Ukraine to its knees and not providing any assistance – such were the general tones of Russian media coverage of Leonid Kuchma’s address at a conference entitled ‘The dawn of Europe: historic legitimacy of civilizational progress’ held in the Ukrainian capital.” The phrase “the EU is bringing Ukraine to its knees” was in reference to the European Union’s list of demands without offering assistance to the Ukraine in fulfilling those requirements. The Russian media has focused on these comments as evidence that the European Union is destroying the Ukraine’s economy and government but Kuchma’s comments had more to do with internal factors and less to do with nefarious forces outside of the Ukraine and manipulated by the powers in charge of the European Union. Indeed, it would seem unfair for the countries leading the European Union to place demands on the Ukraine while it is in the middle of a civil war, but that is a different scenario entirely and not to be unexpected. Afterall, as established in the stories above, the Ukraine is seeking to increasingly integrate itself within the framework of the European Union and is thus more than willing to attempt whatever recommendations they may have for it with regard to the situation in Donbas and the Donetsk People’s Republic.