In the short time since we started this project, we have been approached by whistleblowers leaking documents, laid the groundwork for collaboration with other researchers, and received an immense outpouring of support, constructive suggestions, offers to contribute, and volunteer applications. Our approach has been successfully used by people around the world to critically examine online propaganda outlets and expose the pro-Russian bias, lies, and uncritical reuse of state-controlled media therein. Operators of sites we have highlighted have reached out to us, made a case for their independence, described how they take state-sponsored propaganda very seriously, and put measures in place to avoid being a conduit for it. We are very encouraged by that. We have removed these outlets from our list, and are continuing to add other ones, especially ones which are directly owned and controlled by governments that suppress and restrict free media.
Reporters have investigated some of the outlets we highlighted and found them to be foreign-run, popular, and supportive of Russia in important ways. Some reporters in particular have engaged with our work in its larger context to produce thoughtful analysis. Allied governments and intelligence services, including those of Germany and Sweden, are well aware of the phenomena we highlight and take it very seriously. We have accomplished these things in a very short time, with no budget and no formal organization, by building on the work of numerous others who have paved the way.
We have been strongly criticized as well. Journalists and other researchers have made some thoughtful critiques and pointed out the need for certain improvements that we take seriously. Some have questioned our anonymity, but we will remain anonymous for the reasons which we laid out at the start of this project, in our Frequently Asked Questions: We are anonymous because we are civilian Davids facing down a state-sponsored Goliath. We take things like Russian hacking of Americans, Russian physical attacks on journalists, “Pizzagate”-style mob harassment, and doxing and harassment seriously.
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. Our list was never intended to be “black”. We highlight these outlets because we believe that the public should be able to know that very disparate kinds of online outlets frequently display a strong 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.
As an example, we are happy to remove from the List 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 the List.
After productive conversations with several website operators, in which it became clear that they shared the same concerns we do and were interested in constructively moving forward, we removed them. Please see the updated List for more information.
Also please see our November 30 Press release, which goes into more detail on the themes above, is available for download here, and can be viewed inline below:
Propaganda Flagger Plugin
NEW: PropOrNot Chrome browser extension BETA v0.0.6 highlights links to Russian propaganda sites while browsing!
PropOrNot is an independent team of concerned American citizens with a wide range of backgrounds and expertise, including professional experience in computer science, statistics, public policy, and national security affairs. We are currently volunteering time and skills to identify propaganda - particularly Russian propaganda - targeting a U.S. audience. We collect public-record information connecting propaganda outlets to each other and their coordinators abroad, analyze what we find, act as a central repository and point of reference for related information, and organize efforts to oppose it.
We formed PropOrNot as an effort to prevent propaganda from distorting U.S. political and policy discussions. We hope to strengthen our cultural immune systems against hostile influence and improve public discourse generally. However, our immediate aim at this point is to empower the American voter and decrease the ability of Russia to influence the ensuing American election.
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