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Infowar
Fake News: Coming Soon to a European Election Near You?

In the wake of Donald Trump’s stunning election win, allegations of Russian interference have popularized the notion that Russia can swing election outcomes through the strategic deployment of disinformation and “fake news.” And ahead of major elections in Europe this year, politicians and journalists on both sides of the Atlantic have been warning that Russia could bring such tactics to bear on crucial races in the Netherlands, France, and elsewhere.

Writing in Bloomberg View, however, Leonid Bershidsky offers a dissenting view, arguing that Moscow will not mount a significant campaign to influence Europe’s elections. What’s more, he argues, the paranoia about Russian disinformation campaigns both exaggerates their effectiveness and plays into Moscow’s hands:

The audience-poor Russian propaganda outlets are mostly interested in being publicly accused of trying to affect election outcomes and then loudly refuting the accusations. That plays well to a specific Moscow audience — officials whose views feed into budgeting decisions. RT and Sputnik won’t get more money if a Kremlin-friendly candidate wins — but they will if they’re at the center of public debate, appearing more influential than they could ever be.

There’s no profit in creating European fake news the way young Macedonians did for the U.S. in 2016 to harvest audience for ads on their sites. There are too many countries to follow and difficult languages to parse, and no European country has an audience for fakes that would even approach Donald Trump’s base in terms of size and enthusiasm. Even local far-right communities put more trust in local sources in France and Germany.

Bershidsky’s first point here echoes our own Karina Orlova, who argued last year that Russia’s much-vaunted foreign propaganda organ, RT, is actually quite ineffective despite its ballooning budget. And by overstating the ability of such efforts to influence electoral outcomes—as the unclassified intelligence report on Russian meddling most recently did—critics of Russian interference actually hurt their cause, by attributing far more power to Moscow than it actually has and giving Russian officials an excuse to further fund disinformation campaigns.

In addition to this insight, Bershidsky’s column offers several persuasive reasons to be skeptical that “fake news” efforts will make a big dent in Europe’s elections this year. Read the whole thing.

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  • Fat_Man

    In Europe as in the US, the real fake news comes from the Establishment’s Mainstream Media. Richard Landes, a history professor at Boston University, spent years documenting one particularly egregious example of the agitprop that passes for news on a Government Owned French Television network. He has collected his posts on that subject here.

  • FluffyFooFoo

    Europe is already awash in fake news. The Guardian and Der Spiegel are chock full of it. EU technocrats are adored by the MSM in Europe.

  • Kevin

    Fake news in Europe seems to be mainly an excuse to clamp down on free speech that’s offensive to the powers that be.

  • Suzy Dixon

    Fake news is code for “the socialists and communists are losing, quick deflect deflect!” or “oh no! Our corruption and incompetence has been exposed. Deflect deflect!”

  • Matt_Thullen

    “[A]llegations of Russian interference have popularized the notion that Russia can swing election outcomes through the strategic deployment of disinformation and “fake news.”

    Wrong. This notion is neither popular nor believed. It is propounded by elites in the U.S. who haven’t come to terms with how Trump could have won, and those who propound it don’t really believe that the election was influenced to any degree by “fake news.”

    The notion of “fake news” is one or both of two notions that elites bitterly cling to–one, to the extent they are talking about Macedonian teens creating stories, that the vast majority of Americans are so stinking stupid that they will believe crazy stories and will change their votes based on them, and two, that the “fake news” they’re really talking about is Fox News and other conservative news outlets.

    • Jacksonian_Libertarian

      “Wrong. This notion is neither popular nor believed. It is propounded by elites in the U.S. who haven’t come to terms with how Trump could have won, and those who propound it don’t really believe that the election was influenced to any degree by “fake news.””

      I agree, American’s today don’t trust the MSM, and consider everything they say as fake news. The MSM’s naked and flagrant promotion of Leftist politics, has destroyed all trust. Americans today, are the most sophisticated consumers of information in history. Their “BS Detectors and Truthdar” have been getting honed and calibrated for generations by Advertising, Newspapers, Radio, TV, and now the Internet. Americans know when someone is trying to sell them a “Pig in a Poke”, it’s like the “Cat has been let out of the bag” the moment they open their mouths.

  • Disappeared4x

    Does this mean no more ‘Russian Puppet’ posts at TAI? How about John Bolton calling for regime change in Iran and reuniting the Korean peninsula as the only solutions while he auditions for NSA? Or, China stopping all coal imports from North Korea? Does China now get glowing praise for going green?

    “China will suspend coal imports from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for the rest of 2017, the Ministry of Commerce said Saturday. The ministry said in a statement on its website that the suspension, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2321, will be effective from Feb 19 to Dec 31 this year.

    The UN Security Council adopted the resolution on Nov 30 that tightened sanctions on the DPRK in response to its fifth nuclear test on
    Sept 9 last year.”
    http://www.ecns.cn/business/2017/02-19/245947.shtml

    How will we know if THAT is Fake News?

    Time Warner Cable just replaced Chinese news with NY1, news about NYC. Which is Fake?

  • Andrew Allison

    Is it really necessary to point out, once again, that President Trump’s win was stunning only to the the completely out-of-touch elites of which, sadly, the staff of TAI appear increasingly to be a part?

    • Jim__L

      Next time the subject of CA secession comes up at a Silicon Valley dinner party, I should ask the secessionists what they think of the idea that without California, the GOP would probably run the other 49 states. Without the CA congressional reps, would the House be 2/3rds? Without Silicon Valley money, where would the Democrats get their funding? Without that funding, would the Senate go 2/3rds GOP as well?

      Interesting things to speculate about.

  • PCB

    “(C)ritics of Russian interference actually hurt their cause” – this of course, makes the assumption that the critic’s cause is to deter Russian interference, which in my opinion, the cause is not; rather, it is to delegitimize Trump’s presidency. American’s love conspiracy theories, especially when it supports a partisan narrative, and the news doesn’t have to be truthful to be effective – in fact, the less truthful, the better. The critics do not see the Russians as a threat, they see Trump as a threat, and the Constitution, which they (ironically and/or hypocritically)accuse the Russians and Trump of seeking to undermine.

  • Mike

    He giveth, taketh away, maketh America great again, and telleth it like it is, for he is thy lord in chief.

    After massive cover up of last night’s events in Sweden, no true American patriot will ever believe the failing-fake-news-enemy-of-the-people mainstream media.

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