An allegedly citizen-sourced project that looks more like a suspicious information operation (Source)
Tailor-made disinformation is also provided for people who prefer in-depth ‘analyses’. The needs of this target audience are met with lengthy blog articles containing seemingly accurate lists of sources underlining the credibility of the text. The references, however, usually lead to other disinformation sites.
Many fake news sites, such as Sputnik, describe their content as ‘alternative’. In reality this usually means ‘pro-Russian’, ‘conspiracy theoretical’ and ‘anti-Western’. Articles critical of Putin’s regime are not published.
In January 2016, while Russia’s warplanes were bombing civilian targets such as hospitals in Syria, Twitter activists founded a new pro-Kremlin domain, Southfront.org, titled ‘South Front, Analysis and Intelligence’. This site promises its readers that it ‘digs out the truth in issues which are barely covered by the states concerned and mainstream media’ (South Front 2015). South Front seems to have a special target group: conflict news enthusiasts attracted to conspiracy theories and action films.
The content of the South Front website is a fascinating hybrid of revealingly detailed military intelligence and totally bogus stories. The site has published a series of articles titled ‘Russia Defence Reports’, which visualise the actions in Syria of the insurgents and the armies of Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a ‘text analysis’ format, as well as through Hollywood-style ‘video reports’ with exciting action film music. The content focuses on the success of Russia’s armed forces, and showing off Russia’s weapons. The videos have titles such as ‘Russian Airspace Defence Forces’, ‘(Russian) Anti-Missile Shield’, and ‘Russia Develops Military Infrastructure and Facilities in Latakia’. Versions of the South Front website are available in other languages too. Nothing about Russia attacking civilians is published (see South Front 2016).
South Front uses Facebook to share its contents (Facebook 2016). It has over 17,500 fans and troll profiles liking, commenting on and sharing its posts. These include articles, photos (for example, of Russian military equipment in action in Syria) and other items, such as caricatures of US President Barack Obama promoting gay marriage. As on most pro-Kremlin and disinformation Facebook sites, the quality of the comments made by South Front readers is low. It reveals the commenters’ lack of knowledge of both military issues and international politics. This lack of understanding is often taken advantage of by the pro-Kremlin propagandists. South Front portrays itself as being a crowdsourced project, but it looks more like a professional info-war project run or backed by the Russian military.
Entirely by accident, a fresh informational attack against SouthFront (the text above was published on May 10) was synchronized with the unlawful actions of PayPal and other destructive actions against the project.
We are once again grateful for such a high evaluation of Southfront’s work. Unfortunately, The author’s evaluation of us is weakened by the low quality of the analysis. Indeed, how did the author concluded that SouthFront was launched in January, 2016? The accusations in a propaganda approach also set us wondering amid propaganda set phrases such as “In January 2016, while Russia’s warplanes were bombing civilian targets such as hospitals in Syria…”.
However, we are grateful for the attention given to our work, at a time when SouthFront is in a complicated situation, due to the unlawful actions of transnational corporations.
We suggest to all those who participate in a media campaign aimed at discrediting Southfront, to send emails to the Kremlin and the Russian Defense Ministry in order to inform them of WHO their main propaganda outlet is. Maybe, in this case, they will at least provide a moral support to the project.