MOSCOW — Russia’s Foreign Ministry got into the fake news business in a splashy way on Wednesday.
No, not by creating it. That dark art seems to emanate from other, even more opaque branches of the Russian government.
Rather, Maria V. Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the ministry, unveiled a new section on its website meant to highlight articles that it considers to be fake news, including one by The New York Times.
Just in case anybody missed the point, each article on the Foreign Ministry website carried a big red label reading “FAKE” in English and a line saying that the information in the article “does not correspond to reality.”
Russia actually announced something of a fake news double whammy, since the defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, told Parliament on Wednesday that the military had created a special task force assigned to wage information warfare, although he did not provide any details.
That was no surprise to officials in the United States and Europe, who have been grappling with the Kremlin’s information warfare for at least the last two years. The Foreign Ministry’s new venture in singling out fake news seemed to fit a pattern identified by many analysts of creating alternative realities meant to sow confusion in people’s minds, in that way discrediting all news sources.
It was hard for some critics to take the ministry’s fake news detector seriously, and some suggested that inclusion there was something of a badge of honor, an indication that the article had hit close to home.
The Foreign Ministry has become a propaganda wing serving the Kremlin rather than a diplomatic service that establishes foreign policy, said Alexei A. Venediktov, the longtime editor of the respected Echo of Moscow radio station.
“You shouldn’t worry at all,” he said, but should instead consider being singled out by the Foreign Ministry to be an honor “like a medal.”
Ms. Zakharova introduced the fake news section during her weekly, nationally televised briefing. “We will publish examples of propaganda hoaxes from various media outlets and give links to sources,” she said. “The aim is to demonstrate the main trends in fake news publications about our country and do everything to stop their dissemination.”
It was not immediately clear what criteria the ministry would apply in its effort to identify what it considered to be fake news, and Ms. Zakharova declined to answer questions beyond what she said at her briefing.
The spokeswoman emphasized that the Foreign Ministry would consider the news fake when it failed to include Russian reaction or the Russian position on the issue. News published from unidentified sources that constituted opinion or unverified fact also qualified, according to Ms. Zakharova.
The initiative appeared to be a reaction to widespread reporting over the past year focused on fake news emanating from Russia. Ms. Zakharova outlined an appeal process, noting that news organizations could ask to have their work removed.
“Russia is being accused of doing this, but how can you accuse us of disseminating untrue information by government agencies and the media while you are doing the same against Russia?” Ms. Zakharova said. “While publishing information about Russia, the world media is doing the same thing — they never cite concrete facts — this is a sad paradox.”…
(Cont) NEW YORK TIMES