PropOrNot, a fledgling nonprofit organization with completely anonymous members, got the Washington Post to uncritically publish a story Thursday about over 200 sites that purportedly disseminate Russian propaganda to millions of Americans.
Obama’s former senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer asked on Twitter, “Why isn’t this the biggest story in the world right now?” MSNBC host Joy Ann Reid took the findings in the report as fact. National correspondent of The Atlantic James Fallows tweeted out the story and mentioned that The Washington Post broke the Watergate story.
Despite the hype behind this story, the credentials of the members of PropOrNot have not been revealed and the guidelines they establish define anyone outside the mainstream as Russian propagandists.
TheDC reached to PropOrNot to find out specific information about who is in the organization, and they responded in an email, “Yes, we can absolutely provide quite a bit of information about the members of our organization on background.”
Despite saying they can provide that information, they haven’t.
In a report published Saturday, the group said, “We are an independent team of concerned American citizens with a wide range of backgrounds and expertise, including professional experience in computer science, statistics, public policy, and national security affairs.” That has yet to be confirmed.
PropOrNot also published their guidelines for defining sites that spread Russian propaganda in that same report. These standards would indict most conservative and many left-wing publications as Russian propagandists.
The report says they manually check “to see whether the social-media account/commenter/outlet has a history of generally echoing the Russian propaganda ‘line’ by using themes, arguments, talking points, images, and other content similar to those used by obvious Russian propaganda outlets.”
These themes include praising Donald Trump, “radical political parties in the US and Europe,” and Brexit. According to PropOrNot, calling President Obama, Hillary Clinton, the EU, Angela Merkel, NATO, Democrats, or the mainstream media terrible, weak, or corrupt qualifies as Russian propaganda.
Donald Trump fits almost all of these categories, making him a Russian propagandist, according to PropOrNot. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has also spoken out against globalism and the mainstream media.
PropOrNot also says the Republican Party spouts a Russian “line” when they call the Democratic Party terrible or weak. The group goes on to say it is a Russian propaganda line to say that standing up to Russia would result in “World War 3,” something Trump has specifically said. PropOrNot also believes “anti-Globalism” and “gold-standard nuttery” are Russian propaganda themes.
The PropOrNot list of sites includes The Drudge Report, prominent left-wing site Truth-out, which John Podesta subscribes to, and Naked Capitalism, which CNBC has praised.
This report from The Washington Post, which has also been cited in The Hill and Slate, comes after calls for Facebook to censor “fake news.”
TheDC asked PropOrNot if they have discussed with social media sites if they can use their list to sort out certain sites. They responded, “We can’t comment on any discussions we might be having with social media sites, I’m afraid!”
Facebook did not immediately return a request for comment.