We have used a combination of manual and automated analysis, including analysis of content, timing, technical indicators, and other reporting, in order to initially identify (“red-flag”) the following as “Russian propaganda” outlets. We then confirmed our initial assessment by applying whatever criteria we did not originally employ during the red-flag process, and we reevaluate our findings as needed.
We assess that this overall Russian effort is at least semi-centralized, with multiple Russian projects and influence operations working in parallel to manage the direct and outsourced production of propaganda across a wide range of outlets. It is data-driven, and rewards effective entrepreneurship and innovation with increased funding and other resources. There are varying degrees of involvement in it, and awareness of involvement. Some people involved seem genuinely unaware that their outlets are being used by Russia as conduits for propaganda.
When an outlet establishes a pattern of behavior, by consistently, uncritically, and one-sidedly echoing, repeating, being used by, and redirecting their audiences to Russian official and semi-official state media, it is in an important sense irrelevant whether they are a paid Russian proxy, an honest true believer, or commercially opportunistic. The outcomes of serving strategically deceptive narratives to the American public are the same. We usually cannot know the motivations of the people involved in spreading Russian disinformation. While some investigative reporting has given us a strong idea of these motivations, motivations are ultimately less important to us than behavior. Both because we focus on outlets (websites, YouTube channels, social media accounts, etc.) rather than individuals, and because we focus on behaviors, we do not accuse individuals of deliberate wrongdoing or lawbreaking.
We would also like to be clear: We strongly believe in the First Amendment rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Diverse and independent media are vital to the health of free society. Non-profit and commercial, alternative and mainstream – all are critical to our democracy. Americans have the right to echo, repeat, be used by, and refer their audiences to Russian official and semi-official state media, including “fake news” propaganda – just as we have the right to analyze and highlight that, without fear or favor. This list was never intended to be “black”. This is NOT a list of “paid” or “knowing” propaganda sources. It is NOT an attempt to censor, blacklist, or tar anyone.
We highlight them because we believe that the public should be able to know that very disparate kinds of online sources frequently display a consistent bias towards Russia in ways that echo, repeat, are used by, and redirect their audiences to Russian official and semi-official state media. We also highlight them to encourage readers to think critically about the media they encounter, especially when it might confirm their ideological preconceptions. We highlight. Unlike the Russian government, we do not censor.
An outlet must consistently and over time meet the full range of our criteria in order to qualify. We are happy to remove any that do not, and we welcome the opportunity to engage with anyone involved in order to constructively move forward.
If you have any questions, or run an outlet which you feel has been unfairly categorized, please contact us. We are happy to remove any outlet whose operators understand how Putin’s Russia is a brutal authoritarian kleptocracy that uses “fake news” as online propaganda, and resolves to help do something about it. For example, any outlet that has used a lot of Russia Today and Sputnik News content, but resolves to stop doing so, is going to be removed from this list.
More detailed analysis is ongoing:
Removed following constructive conversations with outlet operators: aanirfan.blogspot.co.uk, abovetopsecret.com, counterpunch.org, nutritionfacts.org, russia-direct.org