THE EXAMPLE

On March 3, Daniil Bezsonov, an official from the pro-Russian separatist region in Ukraine, tweeted a video that he said would demonstrate “how Ukrainians produce misinformation.”

The clip showed two side-by-side videos of a huge explosion in an urban area. Russian-language captions claimed that one video had been circulated by Ukrainian propagandists, who alleged that it showed a Russian missile attack in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.

But as the captions in the second video explained, the footage actually showed a deadly weapons depot explosion in the same area in 2017. The message was clear: Don’t trust footage of alleged Russian missile attacks. Ukrainians are spreading lies about what is really going on, and pro-Russian groups are debunking them.

Clips from a Russian-language video falsely claiming to verify Ukrainian disinformation. There is no evidence that the video was created by Ukrainian media or distributed anywhere, but the caption above states that the video is a “New fake by Ukrainian media.”

The middle caption falsely identifies the footage as “Kharkiv is attacked again by occupiers” and falsely attributes the claim to Ukrainian media. The bottom caption correctly identifies the event as “Fire at the ammunition depot, Balakliya city, 2017.”

Credit: Screenshot from ProPublica

Source: ProPublica

Another example can be found here. (An image comparing what appears to be an Italian television network’s coverage of the war in Ukraine to a shot from a movie has spread online in posts claiming the media is lying about Russia’s invasion. But the network’s parent company rejected the claim, a word is missing from the TGCOM24 logo used in the posts, and AFP found no evidence of the footage being broadcast on the channel.)

THE TECHNIQUE:

These example among others from recent times demonstrates a perfidious technique for discrediting political, economic, or military opponents: you produce a piece of obviously false information that is easy to expose as such.

Subsequently, you claim that the false information originates from the opponent who circulated it. Now you are positioned as a fact-checker!

The opponent is discredited, you gain credibility and can use this as a basis for spreading further false information.

THE CONCLUSION

It is not enough to trust a fact-checker. We must always also check whether the allegedly debunked false information was in circulation at all or whether this represents the actually scandalous false information.


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