U.S. media is reporting that U.S. officials have accused a conservative financial website with “amplifying Kremlin propaganda:” According to the AP report:
February 15, 2022 WASHINGTON (AP) — U. S. intelligence officials on Tuesday accused a conservative financial lnews website with a significant American readership of amplifying Kremlin propaganda and alleged five media outlets targeting Ukrainians have taken direction from Russian spies. The officials said Zero Hedge, which has 1. 2 million Twitter followers, published articles created by Moscow-controlled media that were then shared by outlets and people unaware of their nexus to Russian intelligence. The officials did not say whether they thought Zero Hedge knew of any links to spy agencies and did not allege direct links between the website and Russia. Zero Hedge denied the claims and said it tries to “publish a wide spectrum of views that cover both sides of a given story.” In a response posted online Tuesday morning, the website said it “has never worked, collaborated or cooperated with Russia, nor are there any links to spy agencies.” The officials briefed The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence sources. It was the latest effort by President Joe Biden’s administration to release U. S. intelligence findings about Russian activity involving Ukraine as part of a concerted push to expose and influence the moves of Russian President Vladimir Putin. U. S. officials previously accused Putin of planning a “false-flag” operation to create a pretext for a new invasion of Ukraine and detailed what they believe are final-stage Russian preparations for an assault.
According to the AP, several of the above-referenced articles on Ukraine were authored by individuals affiliated with the Strategic Culture Foundation, sanctioned last year for allegedly participating in Russia’s interference in the 2020 U.S. election. The U.S. officials said the leaders of the Foundation are directed by the SVR, the Russian foreign intelligence service. Two other websites with ties to the Strategic Culture Foundation were also identified, as well as three other websites alleged to have links to the FSB, Russia’s federal security service. The AP report cited the intelligence officials on the role of these websites in the current Ukraine crisis:
“These sites enable the Russian government to secure support among the Russian and Ukrainian populations,” one official said. “This is the primary vector for how the Russian government will bolster support domestically for an invasion into Ukraine.”Officials described for the first time what they say are direct communications between Russian spies and the editors or directors of the media outlets. They did not release records of the communications.
The AP report further describes the role of Zero Hedge in spreading misinformation regarding the COIVD-19 pandemic:
A manifesto published on Zero Hedge’s site defends its use of anonymous authors and proclaims its goal is “to liberate oppressed knowledge.” Many articles are published under the name Tyler Durden, also a character in the movie “Fight Club.” The website was an early amplifier of conspiracy theories and misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. An Associated Press investigation determined the site played a pivotal role in advancing the unproven theory that China engineered the virus as a bioweapon. It’s also posted articles touting natural immunity to COVID-19 and unproven treatments.Zero Hedge was also cited in a recent report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue that examined how far-right extremists are harnessing COVID-19 misinformation to expand their reach. Twitter briefly suspended Zero Hedge’s account in 2020 but reinstated it a few months later, saying it “made an error in our enforcement action in this case.