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SouthFront’s Self-Identification Paradox: GRU Or British Intelligence Trolls?

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SouthFront's Self-Identification Paradox: GRU Or British Intelligence Trolls?

Apparently, this is how de.sputniknews.com imagines SouthFront headquarters in London. IMAGE: MI-6 HQ, Kieran Dohert/Reuters

SouthFront is experiencing some serious ‘self-identification issues’ nowadays.

In late March, Germany’s Deutsche Welle wrote an article calling SouthFront alongside with RT and Sputniknews a part of the Russian COVID-19 disinformation campaign against the West. In the article “Corona-Desinformation: immer dieselben Muster”, Deutsche Welle accused our organization of spreading fake news (citing the European External Action Service) and thus alleged that SouthFront is tied to the Kremlin.

However, in April, it appeared that Russia’s state-run media believes that SouthFront is a part of the British disinformation campaign.

In the article “Wenn Verschwörungstheorien wahr werden – Troll-Fabriken des Westens: JTRIG und Integrity Initiative”, Sputniknews Deutch alleged that SouthFront is operated by the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (a unit of the Government Communications Headquarters – the British intelligence agency revealed by Edward Snowden).

SouthFront's Self-Identification Paradox: GRU Or British Intelligence Trolls?

A screenshot from the page: de.sputniknews.com/politik/20200413326856417-verschwoerungstheorien-westliche-troll-fabriken/

Google Translate:

Alleged Russian disinformation from Amsterdam and the United States?

The entry of the platform southfront.org can be found in the ESTF database with entry from March 31: “CORONAVIRUS HYPE: HOW FAR CAN GOVERNMENTS PUSH PEOPLE BEFORE IT BACKFIRES”. This platform also appears in other parts of the database as an alleged “Kremlin-related” medium. If you take the data of a so-called IP tracker tool like ip.tracker.org, as we did, you will find interesting details.

Each website has a so-called IP address, an Internet protocol number with which each website can be identified. For many of the pages listed in the ESTF database, the location of the registration institution, the location of the page and the so-called name server is given as the Russian Federation. In the case of southfront.org, the registrant is the company REG.RU LLC in Russia, but the location of the page is given as Amsterdam in the Netherlands, the location of the name server, dedicated.koddos.com, is again the USA.

That sounds strange and evokes memories of the methods and techniques of the British troll factory JTRIG already quoted here, how to deal with fake identities on the Internet, in order to – what did that mean – “discredit, encourage distrust, someone of something to deter, to deceive, to deter, to delay or to disturb “.

A long story short, Sputniknews Deutch claims that SouthFront is likely an operation of the British intelligence because its hoster is located in the Netherlands, while the domain is registered in Russia.

The fun fact is that the very same data was used by Politico in 2017 to make the conclusion that SouthFront is a Kremlin operation. The motivation was the following: Despite the fact that SouthFront’s hoster is located in the Netherlands, its domain is registered in Russia. So, SouthFront is likely a Kremlin operation.

This situation demonstrates how different sides of the ongoing media standoff make such contrary conclusions from the same facts in order to push their own agenda.

As to Sputniknews concerns that the website is registered in Russia, while the hoster is located in the Netherlands, we’ll take this opportunity to explain to our dear friends in Sputniknews certain peculiarities of the contemporary digital society. Yes, it’s true that the SouthFront domain was obtained (and registered) using the official Russian domain registrator Reg.ru. Therefore the site contains contact information of Reg.ru’s office in Moscow, not of SouthFront. At the same time, the hosting of the website was obtained using the hosting service Koddos.net located in the Netherlands. This was done because it was more convenient for those team members who registered a domain and got a hosting for the website.

Internet allows one to obtain the domain and got the server you want from nearly any corner of the world, using nearly every registrator and hoster available. SouthFront uses a variety of services in its work, some of them based in the US, others in Russia or yet other countries. We are, after all, living in the Information Age. And yes, the SF team includes citizens of the US, Russia and the Netherlands.

It is also interesting to note that Russian state media outlets finally paid some attention to SouthFront work (years after multiple prominent Western mainstream media, as well as US and EU government agencies) in April 2020. Highly likely, this is linked with the fact that SouthFront has been consistently criticizing the Russian internal politics amid the developing COVID-19 crisis.

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