On July 30th, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Fiscal Year 2021 State Department Budget Request.
Notably, the Global Engagement Center (GEC) is getting its budget doubled in order to counter “Russian disinformation and other propaganda.
“And the State Department’s FY 2021 request for the Global Engagement Center is $138 million – more than double its current level. We won’t tolerate disinformation and other propaganda directed by the Kremlin or any of our other adversaries.”
In order to substantiate the increased request for money, evidently the GEC’s special report: “Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda” presented evidence of the effective work that it’s doing in producing toilet paper and it deserves more than two times more money to presumably spread some more propaganda and produce a few more reports. At least 13 of 77 pages of the report are about SouthFront. So, we are flattered by the praise of the US Department of State.
Another direction to prove that GEC is deserving of increasing funding is the briefing carried out by Lea Gabrielle, the Special Envoy and Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center on the report.
According to her, the report draws on publicly available information to detail for the international public what we view as the five pillars of Russian disinformation.
- Number one: official government communications;
- Number two: state-funded global messaging;
- Number three: cultivation of proxy sources;
- Number four, weaponization of social media;
- Number five: cyber-enabled disinformation.
“The Kremlin bears direct responsibility for cultivating these tactics and platforms as part of its approach to using information and disinformation as a weapon.
The Kremlin invests massively in its propaganda channels. Its intelligence services and proxies conduct malicious cyber activity to support their disinformation efforts. And it leverages outlets that masquerade as news sites or research institutions to spread false and misleading narratives.”
Even though open sources also provide ample evidence that the funding US-state sponsored media such as Voice of America and Radio Free Liberty and more receive is more than that the Russian-state sponsored media receives by an order of magnitude.
“Now, the GEC used the seven sites in our report as examples of tactics that Russia uses to cultivate audiences, to maintain a veneer of independence from Russia, and to spread false narratives around the world. Recent news and media reporting noted several of the sites that we highlight here.”
Furthermore, additional funding is needed because China is also coming to get “you”.
“Beijing has also taken a page from Russia’s playbook, leveraging conspiracy websites and proxy channels to push disinformation and propaganda with the goal of undermining democratic norms and institutions.”
Furthermore, Gabrielle blamed all of the hysteria surrounding Ebola, Zika and even the nonsense regarding 5G on Russian disinformation.
And that likely the COVID-19 vaccine is probably a hoax too.
“Regarding a vaccine, I’ll start by saying that Russia has a long history of spreading disinformation around health and science issues, looking back at Ebola, Zika, 5G. The Russian disinformation ecosystem exploits fear and confusion, as I’ve said, to create and amplify dangerous narratives. We’ve seen that around COVID. We called it out. The Global Engagement Center and the State Department has been calling out Russian disinformation around COVID since at least February. And based on Russia’s track record, we’ve said that there’s a high probability that the Russian disinformation ecosystem will act to undermine faith in a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.”
And then, Gabrielle outlined what the GEC does: choose what is deemed disinformation, and if it’s aimed at a foreign audience provide its own content, that would counter it, presumably factual one.
“The Global Engagement Center is focused on countering foreign disinformation aimed at foreign audiences. So that is not an assessment that was done as part of this report. Rather, this report highlights the overall big picture of how Russian disinformation, the ecosystem of Russia’s disinformation, operates and these five pillars that we’re highlighting.
So these specific sites that we focused on in the report that we call proxy sites essentially will take a disinformation narrative and they will amplify it through other parts of the disinformation ecosystem. So a disinformation narrative that starts in one of the pillars will then bounce off of the other pillars and essentially be amplified.
So Russia typically looks to undermine democratic institutions and democratic norms, and to spread fear and confusion as well as trying to create doubts about democratic norms.”
In short, the report isn’t specifically aimed at any content, it just provides some “examples” of why the GEC should receive much more money, and it’s due to the fears it, itself, is attempting to propagate.
Similarly, on August 5th, Google released its TAG Bulletin for Q2 2020. Quite a bit of activity was registered, all of it unclear.
April started weak:
- 16 YouTube channels, 1 advertising account and 1 AdSense account as part of our ongoing investigation into coordinated influence operations linked to Iran.
- 15 YouTube channels and 3 blogs as part of our ongoing investigation into coordinated influence operations linked to Russia.
- 7 YouTube channels as part of our ongoing investigation into coordinated influence operations linked to Russia. The campaign posted content in Russian, German, and Farsi about Russian and Syrian politics and the US response to COVID-19. Even reporting on the US response is considered an infraction and warrants a ban.
- 186 YouTube channels as part of our ongoing investigation into coordinated influence operations linked to China.
May was a bit more active:
- 1,098 YouTube channels as part of our ongoing investigation into coordinated influence operations linked to China.
- 47 YouTube channels and 1 AdSense account as part of our ongoing investigation into coordinated influence operations linked to Russia. The campaign posted content in a coordinated manner primarily in Russian about domestic Russian and international policy issues.
June was similar to May:
- 1,312 YouTube channels as part of our ongoing investigation into coordinated influence operations linked to China.
- 17 YouTube channels as part of our ongoing investigation into coordinated influence operations linked to Russia.
It is unclear what specifically is being countered, it is quite vague, but it warrants ever more investments, because there is presumed activity taking place and it is protecting the values of democracy from “evil.”
SouthFront Team declares its full support to the idea that the ‘democracy is in danger’ and the United States should do something to save the vestiges of the democratic values and human rights still existing around the world. If this really happens, we believe that all people will appreciate this. Probably, the world superpower could start from the United States itself, which is currently targeted by a major wave of street crime and violent protests.
At the same time, as the official “pillar” of “Russia’s disinformation and propaganda”, SouthFront would like to propose the State Department leadership to take a closer look at the work of the Global Engagement Center, think tanks and media organizations directly or indirectly controlled/funded by the US government and various other structures created to promote the US perspective around the world.
We have a strong suspicious that their effectiveness is at least questionable if SouthFront, that exists thanks to lots of volunteer work and the audience’s donations only, poses an essential threat to results of their multi-million dollar projects. For comparison, SouthFront’s monthly donation budget, which we struggle to collect every month, is $5,000, while the proposed monthly budget of the Global Engagement Center only is $138,000,000/12 = $11,500,000.
There is no need to even try to count all spendings for various media efforts, public diplomacy and clandestine operations to understand that something is rotten in the
state of Denmark Department of State, if the $11,500,000 per month is no engouh to feel safe in the face of the mighty volunteer team of SouthFront. The Internet is really dangerous place.
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