ArchivedSeptember 21 2022, 16:33 pm

How RT Articles Reach EU Audiences Despite Being Banned

The Insti­tute for Strate­gic Dia­logue (ISD) pub­lished a report in late July on how arti­cles from Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da out­let RT are reach­ing EU audi­ences despite being banned. The ISD report begins:

From 2 March 2022, the broad­cast of and access to RT (Rus­sia Today) and its var­i­ous lan­guage ver­sions were sus­pend­ed with­in EU Mem­ber States. The EU’s sanc­tions cov­er all means for the trans­mis­sion and dis­tri­b­u­tion of RT con­tent, includ­ing on social media and search engines. Despite this, ISD ana­lysts have observed that con­tent from RT is still acces­si­ble via web­sites that fea­ture their arti­cles, often word for word. ISD designed a case study approach that looked at RT arti­cles about Ukraini­ans seek­ing refuge in Europe. This Dis­patch out­lines how such arti­cles have found their way to Euro­pean audi­ences despite the EU-wide ban on the outlet’s content.

The report goes on to sum­ma­rize the four dif­fer­ent types of web­sites that are pro­vid­ing loop­holes for RT con­tent to reach the EU infor­ma­tion space:

  • Vari­a­tions of RT domain names that direct to RT servers and were cre­at­ed after the start of the invasion
  • Mir­ror web­sites that are iden­ti­cal to RT’s ‘offi­cial’ sites but could not be direct­ly attrib­uted to the outlet
  • Web­sites that copy-paste arti­cles from RT in their entirety
  • Web­sites that direct traf­fic to RT

The ISD report fur­ther states:

For some of these web­sites, ana­lysts found indi­ca­tions of mon­e­ti­za­tion. The first two cat­e­gories, the alter­na­tive RT domains and mir­ror web­sites, have amassed mil­lions of views over the past months. This is thanks, at least in part, to their con­tent being shared across social media by offi­cial RT accounts Posts that link to these domains have been shared over 456,000 times on Twit­ter and Face­book, with a sig­nif­i­cant peak iden­ti­fied at the begin­ning of April. While RT Face­book accounts are not acces­si­ble from a Euro­pean loca­tion, on Twit­ter the ban can be cir­cum­vent­ed by man­u­al­ly chang­ing the loca­tion set­tings of one’s account. Fur­ther­more, the web­sites these posts pro­mote con­tin­ue to be list­ed in Google search results, poten­tial­ly dri­ving traf­fic from the search engine to RT content.

Read the full ISD report here.

In 2017, the NYT char­ac­ter­ized RT as follows:

Ana­lysts are sharply divid­ed about the influ­ence of RT. Point­ing to its minus­cule rat­ings num­bers, many cau­tion against over­stat­ing its impact. Yet focus­ing on rat­ings may miss the point, says Peter Pomer­ant­sev, who wrote a book three years ago that described Russia’s use of tele­vi­sion for pro­pa­gan­da. “Rat­ings aren’t the main thing for them,” he said. “These are cam­paigns for finan­cial, polit­i­cal and media influ­ence.” RT and Sput­nik pro­pel those cam­paigns by help­ing cre­ate the fod­der for thou­sands of fake news prop­a­ga­tors and pro­vid­ing anoth­er out­let for hacked mate­r­i­al that can serve Russ­ian inter­ests, said Ben Nim­mo, who stud­ies RT for the Atlantic Coun­cil. What­ev­er its impact, RT is unques­tion­ably a case study in the com­plex­i­ty of mod­ern pro­pa­gan­da. It is both a slick mod­ern tele­vi­sion net­work, dressed up with great visu­als and styl­ish pre­sen­ters, and a con­tent farm that helps feed the Euro­pean far right. View­ers find it dif­fi­cult to dis­cern exact­ly what is jour­nal­ism and what is pro­pa­gan­da, what may be “fake news” and what is real but pre­sent­ed with a strong slant.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) has report­ed exten­sive­ly on RT and its operations.


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