In another round of their anti-Russian disinformation campaign 'U.S. government officials' claim that some websites loselly connected to Russia are spreading 'virus disinformation'.
However, no 'virus disinformation' can be found on those sites.
The Associated Press as well as the New York Times were briefed by the 'officials' and provided write ups.
AP: US officials: Russia behind spread of virus disinformation
Two Russians who have held senior roles in Moscow's military intelligence service known as the GRU have been identified as responsible for a disinformation effort meant to reach American and Western audiences, U.S. government officials said. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
The information had previously been classified, but officials said it had been downgraded so they could more freely discuss it. Officials said they were doing so now to sound the alarm about the particular websites and to expose what they say is a clear link between the sites and Russian intelligence.
Between late May and early July, one of the officials said, the websites singled out Tuesday published about 150 articles about the pandemic response, including coverage aimed either at propping up Russia or denigrating the U.S.
Among the headlines that caught the attention of U.S. officials were "Russia's Counter COVID-19 Aid to America Advances Case for Détente," which suggested that Russia had given urgent and substantial aid to the U.S. to fight the pandemic, and "Beijing Believes COVID-19 is a Biological Weapon," which amplified statements by the Chinese.
The first mentioned piece, Russia's Counter-COVID Aid To America Advances The Case For A New Detente, is by the well known author Andrew Korybko, a U.S. political analyst living in Moscow. It was published at OneWorld.press. The essay discussed the Russian Coronavirus aid flown in early April from Russia to the U.S. The analyst concludes that such aid can be seen as the begin of a new détente between the U.S. and Russia.
There is zero 'virus disinformation' in the Korybko piece. The aid flight did happen and was widely reported. In a response to the allegations the proprietors of OneWorld point out that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a recent Q&A also alluded to a new détente with Russia. Was that also 'virus disinformation'?
The second piece the 'officials' pointed out, Beijing believes COVID-19 is a biological weapon, was written In March by Lucas Leiroz, a "research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro". It is an exaggerating analysis of the comments and questions a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry had made about the possible sources of the Coronavirus.
The original spokesperson quote is in the piece. Referring to additional sources the author's interpretation may go a bit beyond the quotes meaning. But it is certainly not 'virus disinformation' to raise the same speculative question about the potential sources of the virus which at that time many others were also asking.
The piece was published by InfoBRICS.org, a "BRICS information portal" which publishes in the languages of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). It is presumably financed by some or all of those countries.
Another website the 'U.S. officials' have pointed out is InfoRos.ru which publishes in Russian and English. The AP notes of it:
A headline Tuesday on InfoRos.ru about the unrest roiling American cities read "Chaos in the Blue Cities," accompanying a story that lamented how New Yorkers who grew up under the tough-on-crime approach of former Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg "and have zero street smarts" must now "adapt to life in high-crime urban areas."
Another story carried the headline of "Ukrainian Trap for Biden," and claimed that "Ukrainegate" - a reference to stories surrounding Biden's son Hunter's former ties to a Ukraine gas company - "keeps unfolding with renewed vigor."
U.S. officials have identified two of the people believed to be behind the sites' operations. The men, Denis Valeryevich Tyurin and Aleksandr Gennadyevich Starunskiy, have previously held leadership roles at InfoRos but have also served in a GRU unit specializing in military psychological intelligence and maintain deep contacts there, the officials said.
InfoRos calls itself a 'news agency' and has some rather boring general interest stuff on its site. But how is its writing in FOX News style about unrest in U.S. cities and about Biden's escapades in the Ukraine 'virus disinformation'? I fail to find any on that site.
In 2018 some "western intelligence agency" told the Washington Post, without providing any evidence, that InfoRos is related to the Russian military intelligence service GU (formerly GRU):
Unit 54777 has several front organizations that are financed through government grants as public diplomacy organizations but are covertly run by the GRU and aimed at Russian expatriates, the intelligence officer said. Two of the most significant are InfoRos and the Institute of the Russian Diaspora.
So InfoRos is getting some public grants and was allegedly previously run by two people who before that worked for the GU. What does that say about the current state and the content it provides? Nothing.
The NYT adds that hardly anyone is reading the websites the 'U.S. officials' pointed out but that their content is at times copied by more prominent aggregator sites:
"What we have seen from G.R.U. operations is oftentimes the social media component is a flop, but the narrative content that they write is shared more broadly through the niche media ecosystem," said Renee DiResta, a research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, who has studied the G.R.U. and InfoRos ties and propaganda work.
There are plenty of sites who copy content from various outlets and reproduce it under their name. But that does not turn whatever they publish into disinformation.
All the pieces mentioned by AP and NYT and attributed to the 'Russian' sites are basically factual and carry no 'virus disinformation'. That makes the 'U.S.officials' claims that they do such the real disinformation campaign.
And the AP and NYT are willingly falling for it.
Posted by b on July 29, 2020