Twitter's Selective Labelling of Sputnik and RT Part of Wider Campaign to Delegitimise Russian Media

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© AFP 2020 / EMMANUEL DUNAND

Twitter’s labelling of Sputnik and RT as ‘Russia state-affiliated media’, while other state-linked or state-funded western media escapes such branding shows us there’s a geopolitical agenda at play here.

Every time you think the propaganda war against Russia has relented a little, something else happens to remind you that the powers that be simply won’t let it rest. On Thursday, Twitter bowed to pressure from the Russophobes and started to add the words ‘Russia state-affiliated media’ to tweets from Sputnik, and RT. Not only that, in a blog post, the American micro-blogging and social networking site warned that it will no longer show tweets from so-called ‘state-affiliated’ media accounts on the home screen, notifications or search, thus reducing the ‘reach‘ of these accounts.

This is two-fold discrimination. Firstly it is putting ‘state-affiliated’ media into a separate category that requires a ‘warning’ and backdoor censorship. Then within that category, further discrimination is deployed. 

It’s very revealing to see which ‘state-affiliated’ media accounts have received the designation, and which have not. Twitter say they are focusing on members of the United Nations Security Council first. RT and Sputnik have it. So too does China’s CCTV. But The Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and France 24 do not.

Let’s look at these and see if the phrase ‘state-affiliated’ should apply.

On the Library of Congress website, it states Voice of America (VOA) is a ‘United States government-funded multimedia news source and the official external broadcasting institution of the United States’

The VOA own website says that it was created in 1942 to ‘combat Nazi propaganda’.

While on its ‘Missions and Values’ page it states:  ‘VOA is part of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), the government agency that oversees all non-military, U.S. international broadcasting. It is funded by the U.S. Congress.’

© Sputnik / Alexey Filippov
Presentation of the major international news brand, Sputnik

So there you have it. VOA is part of a ‘government agency’ – yet it doesn’t receive the designation of ‘state-affiliated media’ that RT and Sputnik now has.

It’s a similar story with RFE/RL. It too is part of the U.S. Agency for Global Media. Its website says its editorial independence is protected by US law, but it is also funded through US Congress. ‘State-affiliated’? You decide. 

France-24, a 24-7 news channel, is the French equivalent of RT, but it doesn’t get called ‘state-affiliated media’ even though it is state-owned! The close links between the channel and the French state could be seen in 2016 when the then French President Francois Hollande announced that France-24 would be launching a Spanish language channel the following later. The head of the state-owned holding company (France Médias Monde), which runs France-24, was appointed by the French government. France-24 receives funding through a licence fee and a subsidy from the French state. ‘State-affiliated media‘?  Well, not according to Twitter.  How come?

You really don’t have to be a hardcore Russian nationalist to think that Russia is being singled out here.

In fact, a propaganda war has been waged against Russian media operating lawfully in western countries for a number of years now. Those behind it would ideally like to see Sputnik and RT banned but failing that they push for maximum de-legitimisation. They say it’s because Russian media operating in the west peddles ‘disinformation’ and ‘fake news’ but strangely when challenged they can never seem to come up with any concrete examples. In fact, he great ‘crime’ of Russian media is not that it’s promoting ’fake news’, but that it provides a platform to a much wider range of views that are normally seen on the established western channels. Just look at the columnists on the Sputnik website for instance. Jon Gaunt, Tommy Sheridan, Finian Cunningham, Erik van de Beek and myself encompass a very broad spectrum of opinion. In fact, you’ll probably struggle to find anything that Jon and Tommy agree on, unlike some media outlets where the differences of the columnists are the width of a cigarette paper. 

RT is similarly diverse. There you can watch interviews with self-proclaimed communists, free-market ‘Austrian school’ economists, ‘Greens’, climate-change sceptics, Europhiles and Brexiteers, Scottish Nationalists, and committed Unionists- and the same applies for the website. In fact, part of the appeal of Russian media channels is that they have handed the microphone over to people who simply aren’t given any- or anywhere near enough- airtime these days on other channels.  It’s this very liberal promotion of a genuinely wide range of opinions which explains why Russian media is targeted by the extremely illiberal New McCarthyites, who only really want us to hear one side of the story. The issue of Syria is particularly important in this regard.

Back in around 2012/13 just about the only news stations reporting on the links between Western-sponsored ‘rebels’ and extremist terrorists were the Russian ones. The Syrian regime-change lobby and the anti-Russian media lobby are basically one and the same. Or put another way, Russian media is being punished by reporting things we weren’t meant to know about in Syria.

If you try to find links to RT and Sputnik reporting or articles on Syria, or anything else for that matter, on Wikipedia, you won’t find them. As part of the de-legitimisation campaign, the mysterious Wikipedia editor Philip Cross and his alter ego ‘NomDeA’, have spent countless hours removing links to RT and Sputnik articles from the online encyclopedia on the grounds they are not ‘RS’, a ‘reliable source’.  

The very fact that certain agenda-driven individuals spend so much time and effort in trying to stop you from finding or looking at Russian media reports or articles online, should make you ask: ‘What are they so worried about’? ‘Why are they so terrified that I might read this?’

When people try so hard to censor others, then nine times out of ten it’s not because the person or organisation is peddling disinformation, but because they are telling the truth. Or, as the very wise old saying goes, when you point one finger at someone else there are three more pointing back at you.

Follow Neil Clark @NeilClark66 and @MightyMagyar

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The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.