Fake Florida Local News Network Exposed As Russia-Linked Propaganda Front: NYT

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Researchers have uncovered a new network of fake news websites that have popped up ahead of the 2024 presidential election that they have traced to Russia.

The New York Times reported that the websites have been designed to look like local news sites for major American cities that deliver a mix of real local news combined with propaganda that’s seemingly beneficial to the Kremlin.

For example, a Russian website called the “Miami Chronicle” fashions itself as a newspaper that has purportedly been reporting on South Florida since 1937.

In reality, it takes actual Florida news stories and then slips in fake ones aimed at undermining the United States’ foreign policy and bolstering Russia’s foreign policy aims.

“Amid some true reports, the site published a story last week about a ‘leaked audio recording’ of Victoria Nuland, the U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs, discussing a shift in American support for Russia’s beleaguered opposition after the death of the Russian dissident Aleksei A. Navalny,” reports the Times.

“The recording is a crude fake, according to administration officials who would speak only anonymously to discuss intelligence matters.”

The network was discovered by Clemson University’s Media Forensics Hub by researchers Patrick Warren and Darren Linvill, who tell the Times that its websites are designed to lend journalistic credibility to slickly produced propaganda.

“The page is just there to look realistic enough to fool a casual reader into thinking they’re reading a genuine, U.S.-branded article,” Linvill told the Times.

Russia in 2016 used fake news stories to attack the candidacy of Democrat Hillary Clinton and promote the candidacy of former President Donald Trump.

However, in that year, the effort was massively helped by American social media companies, which did little to throttle content produced by Russian intelligence services from going viral on their platforms, and it’s unclear if the current Russian sites have a strategy to spread their propaganda further than their own internet domains.