Russia is Manipulating US Public Opinion through Online Propaganda

We’re trying to stop it.

Welcome to PropOrNot! This site is a resource for people who want to understand Russian influence operations targeted at US audiences, distinguish between propaganda and commercial “clickbait”, and help identify propaganda and push back.

UPDATE: We are publishing our Black Friday Report, adding FAQ entries, updating The List, and more! Please see our latest post for more information. Also, for a sense of what certain kinds of Russian trolls look and sound like in real life, check out this Samantha Bee segment, which cleverly interviews Russian social-media and comment-section propagandists:

Russian Fake “News” is Influencing American Citizens

A large-scale information campaign is deceptively injecting Russian propaganda into American public discourse online. It operates on both the left and the right, generating thousands of fake news articles, memes, tweets, and videos. Collectively, this propaganda is undermining our public discourse by providing a warped view of the world, where Russia can do no wrong, and America is a corrupt dystopia that is tearing itself apart. It is vital that this effort be exposed for what it is: A coordinated attempt to deceive U.S. citizens into acting in Russia’s interests.

Old-Style Russian Propaganda New-Style Russian Propaganda

It’s Bigger Than Just Hacked E-Mails

Russia’s attempts to influence the US election via hacking and selectively leaking sensitive US government and political information have been widely documented, but Russia is not conducting those operations in isolation. Their hacking efforts are accompanied by a large-scale, long-term, and remarkably effective campaign to build online propaganda outlets targeting US audiences. These sites have US audiences estimated in the millions, parrot Russian state-owned propaganda, and relentlessly attack the important investigative work done by actual American journalists.

Russian Propaganda Targets All Americans

While Russian influence operations resemble a marketing effort in some ways, only a few dozen individual outlets (“sources”) actually produce large amounts of original propaganda content. That content is then echoed, extended, and amplified through an immense number of secondary sites (“repeaters”). Both source and repeater outlets target a wide range of audiences: US military veterans, Wall St. insiders and finance specialists, natural-food and health enthusiasts, goldbugs, African-Americans, white Americans, peace activists, religious people, 9/11-“truthers”, and politically-active Americans across and outside the political spectrum. For example:

Name Domain Primary Target Audience Interests Review Article Absurd Pro-Russia Content Source? Repeater?
Infowars / Alex Jones infowars.com Conspiracy Example Example Major Major
Zerohedge zerohedge.com Finance Example Example Major Major
True Activist trueactivist.com Left-wing Example Example Minor Major
Natural News naturalnews.com Health Example Example Major Major
Ending The Fed endingthefed.com Right-wing Example Example Minor Major
Corbett Report corbettreport.com Geopolitics Example Example Major Minor
Washington’s Blog washingtonsblog.com General Example Example Major Major
Before It’s News beforeitsnews.com General Example Example No Major
Counterpunch counterpunch.org Left-wing Example Example Major Minor
Ron Paul Institute ronpaulinstitute.org Right-Wing Example Example Major Major
Hang the Bankers hangthebankers.com Finance Example Example Minor Major
The Activist Post activistpost.com Left-wing Example Example Major Minor
The Anti-Media theantimedia.org Anti-Media Example Example Major Minor
Veterans Today veteranstoday.com Veterans Example Example Major Major
Southfront southfront.org Military Example Example Major Major
Your Newswire yournewswire.com General Example Example Major Major
America’s Freedom Fighters americasfreedomfighters.com Right-wing Example Example Minor Minor
Global Research globalresearch.ca General Example Example Major Major
Paul Craig Roberts paulcraigroberts.org Left-wing Example Example Major Minor

PropOrNot is a Resource

We at PropOrNot are assembling tools and information to help identify and neutralize Russian propaganda. We are not waiting for an official response, and we need your help!

We call on the American public to:

  • Be aware that Russia is trying to supplant actual journalism (that has editors and fact checkers who impose accountability for mistakes), with fake-“media” online propaganda that Russia influences or controls.
  • Spread the word: Russia is attempting to manipulate the American people through online propaganda.
  • Obtain news from actual reporters, who report to an editor and are professionally accountable for mistakes. We suggest NPR, the BBC, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington PostBuzzfeedVICE, etc, and especially your local papers and local TV news channels. Support them by subscribing, if you can!
  • Familiarize yourself with this project, at www.propornot.com, and especially our IntroductionFrequently Asked Questions, and Manual Propaganda Analysis example, so you can practice distinguishing between Russian propaganda and actual news for yourself.
  • Share this sitewww.propornot.com, on social media, by email, and however else you think appropriate – especially with family members, reporters, politicians, celebrities, and other influencers.
  • Respectfully discuss this with people who you see credulously repeating Russian propaganda, if you think think they will listen. People will often have a hard time believing that their favorite “alternative” news sources are foreign-directed disinformation, but encourage them to take a carefully critical look. Look for ridiculous pro-Russian articles and posts on their favorite sites, and ask them: “What exactly is that doing there!?”
  • Participate in the YYYcampaignYYY, to help highlight Russian propaganda websites, accounts, and other outlets, by putting a YYY on either side of their name. It’s straightforward.
  • Review our Reference Articles section, which provide excellent background on Russian propaganda and influence operations both in the US and around the world.
  • Join us on Reddit, at https://www.reddit.com/r/PropOrNot/, to help us track down and expose Russian propaganda outlets that we haven’t discovered yet.

We call on individuals who think they might be, or have been, unwittingly involved in producing or spreading Russian propaganda, to:

  • Come forward with your stories. We want to know what happened, and we encourage you to get in touch with actual reporters who can tell your story with the respect and care it deserves. We can help with that if you would like.
  • Stop spreading Russian propaganda. Don’t keep doing it in the hope that you will gather more information about how it all works. The US government already has plenty of information about this.

We call on Congressional leadership, and the Obama administration, to:

Finally, we would like to thank the many people who have helped us with this project, and whose work we are building on. We stand on the shoulders of giants. They are too numerous to list here, and many of them wish to remain anonymous for security and professional reasons, but some of them are listed in our Allies section to the right of this page.

Watch this space. Our tools are evolving and there will be much more soon.

— The PropOrNot Team

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