Snopes: Nothing but the Truth

— Fact-checking website Snopes targeted by debunked conspiracy YouTuber J.K. Sheindlin in copyright delisting request

Sheindlin runs the popular YouTube channel Nothing But the Truth Films (NBT), which claims to “present the black and white facts about the geopolitical climate [including] Islam, Illuminati, Freemasonry, Cults and more.”

Last year, NBT uploaded a video purporting to show an “Arab guy” angrily renouncing his faith on live television:

Fact-checking website Snopes subsequently debunked the video. Via “‘Arab Guy’ Renounces Faith on Egyptian Television?” by Dan Evon, July 5, 2016:

While the video purports to tell the “black and white facts” about someone renouncing his faith because of Sheindlin’s book, the clip in reality does not capture an Arab’s reaction to a controversial book, nor does it capture that person renouncing his faith on live television. Sheindlin added fabricated captions to the video (while pledging to tell “nothing but the truth”) in order to generate buzz for his book The People vs Muhammad.

Apparently, NBT did not appreciate the fact-checking effort.

Last month, the conspiracy channel filed a DMCA copyright complaint requesting that Google delist Evon’s article from its search results. That’s according to the Lumen Database, which archives online takedown requests.

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If you can’t read that it says:

The copyrighted work is a video that our company produced, and has been embedded on the following website without our permission. You can see the video embedded on the page, under the section ‘Origin’. We did not give any authorisation for the website ‘Snopes’ to use our video for their news. Therefore, the company Snopes has infringed our copyright.

As of publication, Google has not delisted the article.

People Euthanizing Thousands of Animals (dot com)

— Animal rights group PETA bought PeopleEuthanizingThousandsOfAnimals.Com and PeopleEuthanizingTastyAnimals.Net following criticism of its euthanasia programme

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is a Norfolk, Virginia-based animal rights nonprofit founded in 1980 by English-born Ingrid Newkirk.

Ingrid Newkirk (source)

In its mission statement, PETA says it aims “to stop animal suffering [using] every available opportunity to reach people with our messages.”

Over the past decade, PETA arguably has self-sabotaged its animal rights agenda in pursuing an “uncompromising” media campaign of “shameless” advertisements, “pseudo-scientific” claims, and physical attacks on celebrities and opponents.

PETA’s “Holocaust on your plate” campaign (source)

Now it appears that PETA sought to thwart criticism that it euthanizes up to ninety-seven per cent (in 2006) of animals that enter its Virginia shelter.

In 2012, PETA registered several critical domain names comprising the PETA acronym, including PeopleEuthanizingThousandsofAnimals.Com and PeopleEuthanizingTastyAnimals.Net.

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PETA bought the domains following bad press from Center for Consumer Freedom, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit advocacy group whose website maintains statistics on the number of animals PETA euthanizes annually.

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While Newkirk has insisted that euthanizing tens of thousands of animals is “a tragic necessity,” critics argue that Newkirk’s rationalisations exhibit a “disturbing” pathology.

Via “Ingrid Newkirk’s Death Wish” by Douglas Anthony Cooper, Huff Post, April 5, 2012:

PETA’s literature…describes euthanasia in terms that can only be considered pornographic: “For (the dog) Pepper, euthanasia was a sweet release from the painful existence that she’d endured for so long.”

This is not a new metaphor: orgasm has long been referred to as “le petit mort” — the little death. Rarely do you see the analogy reversed in this manner, however: death of the innocent described as a little orgasm.

The psychology here is thoroughly pathological. No question. It is a sickness of the soul. Particularly disturbing, however, is that the reasoning behind this cult of euthanasia is thoroughly sound.

If your goal in this world is to prevent suffering, then one perfectly rational solution — perhaps the only rational solution — is to end life. Death makes sense. It is the termination of pain.

This is very much the PETA argument: life is suffering; hence death is good.

Ingrid Newkirk demonstrates a chilling consistency here. Yes, she feels the same way about humans — their eradication would be an improvement to the universe: “Humans have grown like a cancer. We’re the biggest blight on the face of the earth.”

She is no less consistent when she discusses Ingrid Newkirk — her horror of humanity extends to herself: “I am not a morose person, but I would rather not be here. I don’t have any reverence for life, only for the entities themselves. I would rather see a blank space where I am. This will sound like fruitcake stuff again but at least I wouldn’t be harming anything.”

Five years on, PETA continues to fend off criticism, and in some cases has even paid money in defence of its euthanasia programme.

In September, the animal rights group agreed to pay $49,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by Virginia native Wilber Zarate Llaven, whose pet Chihuahua was snatched from the porch of his mobile home and subsequently euthanized by PETA employees.

In the suit, Llaven alleged that PETA euthanizes animals because it “considers pet ownership to be a form of involuntary bondage.”

PETA denied the allegations, maintaining the incident in 2014 was a “terrible mistake.”

According to WhoIs, which hosts information about domain registrants, PETA recently extended its purchase of PeopleEuthanizingThousandsofAnimals.Com and other similarly named domains. The domains are set to expire in March 2018.

Caputo Rattles His Saber

— Ex-Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo threatens legal action against ThinkProgress for reporting that he helped improve Vladimir Putin’s image in the United States

Earlier today, the progressive news website reported that Donald Trump’s campaign is to create a legal defence fund for all staffers involved in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of possible collusion between the campaign and the Russian government.

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The report by ThinkProgress associate editor Melanie Schmitz stated that “Former Trump campaign official Michael Caputo – who was previously responsible for improving Russian President Vladimir Putin’s image in the United States, and who is currently facing his own set of legal woes in relation to the Mueller investigation – believes that it’s the RNC’s duty to cover legal fees for the president.”

Caputo subsequently messaged Schmitz publicly on Twitter threatening to take legal action against ThinkProgress, Schmitz, and her senior editor Emily Hazzard unless Schmitz changed her article to say that he “never worked for Putin,” and that he’d “never been contacted by Mueller’s team.”

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While it’s true Caputo never actually worked for Putin, his former PR firm Rainmaker Interactive once represented Alfred Kokh, chief executive of Russian state-owned media company Gazprom Media, and helped burnish the company’s reputation with U.S. media and policymakers.

Via “Ex-Trump Aide Scrambles to Scrub Russia From Bio” by Lachlan Markay, The Daily Beast, November 6, 2017:

At the time, Gazprom had just acquired NTV, one of Russia’s few major opposition media outlets, sparking an internal revolt among staff. Gazprom dispatched security services to seize NTV’s headquarters in a move that was widely condemned as an assault on independent Russian media. According to Kokh, Putin personally sanctioned the crackdown.

In an interview last year, The Buffalo News characterized Caputo’s subsequent PR work for Gazprom Media as “help[ing] President Vladimir Putin weather U.S. government criticism for taking over an independent TV station.” Caputo says that characterization is inaccurate, though he told the paper at the time, as Petkanas noted, that he is “not proud of the work today,” adding the caveat that at “at the time, Putin wasn’t such a bad guy.”

As the title of that article suggests, Caputo recently paid an employee at his current PR firm, Zeppelin Communications, to scrub Wikipedia of all language linking him to Putin.

Bad Fan Fiction

— Michael Jackson’s estate targets erotic fan fiction with series of copyright complaints

According to the Lumen Database, Jackson’s estate recently hired self-proclaimed “Web Sheriff,” British IP lawyer John Giacobbi, to scrub a blogger’s erotic fan fiction about the late singer.

John Giacobbi (source)

The targeted blog, MJ Fan Fictions, includes “semi-erotic adventures” about Jackson and the blog’s owner, Trinette Rani Johnson.

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Here’s a particularly inspiring sample of Johnson’s work:

Daryl [Jackson’s character from the Bad video] was enjoying himself too much. He was off from school and his mother wasn’t home from work. His new girlfriend wasn’t home either. He had on his stereo to the sounds of Stevie Wonder. He had eaten dinner and was about to take a shower. He took his shirt off first revealing his taunt tan chest, perky little nipples, define muscles, and his outtie belly button.

If that does it for you, you can read more by clicking here.

Citing U.S. copyright law, Giacobbi has requested that Google delist Johnson’s blog because “the use of the copyrighted materials…is not authorised by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.”

The complaint is part of an ongoing series of legal efforts to purge Google’s blogosphere of Jackson fan erotica, described in a separate complaint as a subculture of “libellous innuendo” and “obscene and malicious falsehoods.”

Info-Warring (Part II)

— International Business Times files copyright complaint against conspiracy website InfoWars

In February, I blogged about a series of DMCA copyright complaints filed against U.S. conspiracy website InfoWars.

The complaints by pro-gun news website AmmoLand, Danish-run news website nsnbc international, plus a third accusation of content scraping by Cincinnati survivalist website On Point Preparedness, claimed that InfoWars republished their content without permission.

InfoWars founder Alex Jones (source)

Yesterday, BuzzFeed News broke the news that “InfoWars has republished more than 1,000 articles from RT without permission”:

Over the past three years, conspiracy site InfoWars has copied more than 1,000 articles produced by Russian state-sponsored broadcaster RT to its website — all without the permission of RT.

According to data from social sharing tracking website BuzzSumo, there were at least 1,014 RT articles republished on InfoWars since May of 2014. The articles appeared on InfoWars with a byline credit to RT, but a spokesperson for the Russian broadcaster told BuzzFeed News that InfoWars did not have permission to re-publish its content.

RT is not the only outlet InfoWars copied content from. A search on BuzzSumo shows there are articles copied from CNN, Sputnik, Breitbart, CNS News, the Blaze, CBC, BBC, Vice, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New York Post, LA Times, BuzzFeed, and others. RT’s articles, however, seem to be the most numerous.

Adding to that list is the International Business Times (recently rebranded Newsweek Media Group).

According to the Lumen Database, a website that collects and analyses online takedown requests, the business news publication recently sent Google a copyright complaint claiming that “InfoWars often [uses] our content without approval and incorrectly attribute canonical owership [sic] to themselves”:

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According to BuzzFeed, InfoWars has not replied to multiple requests for comment.

Caputo Gets Streisanded

— The Washington Post covers Shooting the Messenger scoop re: Efforts by ex-Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo to scrub Russia from his Wikipedia bio

On Monday, The Daily Beast reported my scoop that Caputo paid his PR firm to purge Wikipedia of evidence that he helped promote Russian President Vladimir Putin in the United States.

Yesterday, The Washington Post covered the story as part of its daily round-up. Via “The Daily 202” by James Hohmann, The Washington Post, November 8, 2017:

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— An employee of former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo was blocked from Wikipedia in August after the site’s editors said he was caught using multiple pseudonymous accounts to scrub the page of Caputo’s ties to Vladimir PutinThe Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay reports: “After the accounts were exposed as what Wikipedia calls ‘sock puppets’ — multiple accounts run by the same person as part of a coordinated editing campaign —[the employee, Sean Dwyer], admitted he had financial ties to the subjects of his edits. It’s just the latest front in Caputo’s battles to save his reputation from, what he sees as, Russian smears. He also says he has filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) over comments at a congressional hearing in March, where the California Democrat accused Caputo of having been Russian president Vladimir Putin’s ‘image consultant[.’]”

Wikipedia Offers Assistance to Ex-Trump “Wiki-Sneak”

— Wikipedia invites ex-Trump advisor Michael Caputo “to one of our DC editing events to learn how to use Wikipedia properly” after he gets busted trying to scrub his online bio

Last week, I blogged about Caputo’s attempts to purge Wikipedia of evidence that he helped promote Russian President Vladimir Putin in the United States.

Michael Caputo (source)

Via “Ex-Trump Aide Frantically Scrambles to Scrub Russia From Bio” by Lachlan Markay, The Daily Beast, November 6, 2017:

[Zeppelin Communications executive Sean Dwyer’s] editing campaign, which was first reported by independent blogger Dean Sterling Jones, shows that…he repeatedly attempted to remove language from the page that tied [former Trump adviser Michael Caputo’s] work for Gazprom to any efforts to burnish Putin’s reputation abroad.

[…]

Caputo denied that Dwyer had run afoul of any Wikipedia guidelines. “Sean has done nothing wrong except engage with Wikipedia according to their rules, which apparently put him in the sights of a wanker trolling me from his mommy’s basement,” he said.

Today, Wikipedia invited Caputo “or anyone in politics” to “come to one of our DC editing events to learn how to use Wikipedia properly.”

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From this tweet, it appears that Caputo has accepted the invite:

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The Daily Beast Busts Ex-Trump “Wiki-Sneak”

— Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo takes swipe at me in The Daily Beast for blogging about his campaign to scrub Russia from his Wikipedia bio

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Via “Ex-Trump Aide Frantically Scrambles to Scrub Russia From Bio” by Lachlan Markay, The Daily Beast, November 6, 2017:

Former Donald Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo is determined to prove that he did not work for Vladimir Putin, and he’s using every tool at his disposal to do so—from a congressional ethics complaint, to a defamation lawsuit, to a surreptitious Wikipedia edit campaign.

Sean Dwyer, an employee of Caputo’s PR firm, Zeppelin Communications, was blocked from Wikipedia in August after he was caught using multiple pseudonymous accounts to purge Caputo’s page of alleged Putin ties, according to an investigation by the site’s editors. After the accounts were exposed as what Wikipedia calls “sock puppets”—multiple accounts run by the same person as part of a coordinated editing campaign—Dwyer admitted he had financial ties to the subjects of his edits.

[…]

Given what Caputo characterizes as widespread—and even malicious—misrepresentations of his work in Russia, “Wikipedia inaccuracies barely even make it on my radar,” he said.

And yet, Dwyer’s editing campaign, which was first reported by independent blogger Dean Sterling Jones, shows that Caputo was at least aware of the claims and determined to purge them. Dwyer did so through four different “sock puppet” accounts, according to Wikipedia’s investigation, and edit logs show he repeatedly attempted to remove language from the page that tied Caputo’s work for Gazprom to any efforts to burnish Putin’s reputation abroad.

Though it’s fairly common, “sock-puppetry is one of the cardinal sins of Wikipedia,” according to William Beutler, the president of digital marketing firm Beutler Ink and a longtime personal and professional Wikipedia editor. “We do this legitimately every day. But our approach is different from what they do here,” Beutler said in an interview. Unlike Dwyer, “we disclose who our clients are at the starting point.”

Caputo denied that Dwyer had run afoul of any Wikipedia guidelines. “Sean has done nothing wrong except engage with Wikipedia according to their rules, which apparently put him in the sights of a wanker trolling me from his mommy’s basement,” he said.

I deny all accusations that I live in my mother’s basement.

Update, 7/11/2017: The story was subsequently covered by Raw Story here, Wonkette here, and Just Security here.

Caputo: Caught in the Web

— Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo paid his own PR firm to purge Wikipedia of his long-standing political ties to Russia

Michael Caputo (source)

According to Wikipedia editing records, Caputo recently paid Zeppelin Communications, a PR firm he co-founded in 2015 with Russian club owner Sergey George Petrushin, to delete evidence that he helped promote Russian President Vladimir Putin in the United States.

The edits were made two weeks after Caputo testified privately to the House Intelligence Committee about Donald Trump’s “tarantula web” of ties to Russia.

Caputo was brought onto Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign as communications adviser by his close associate, political strategist Paul Manafort.

Paul Manafort (source)

On Monday, Manafort was indicted on 12 charges including “conspiracy against the United States” as part of an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is examining allegations of possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.

In July, Caputo’s firm launched a disruptive editing campaign to delete “disputed information” about his personal life and political career from Wikipedia, including his previous admission to The Buffalo News that in 2000 he was hired by pro-Russian news network Gazprom Media “to burnish Putin’s image in the United States.

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The firm also sought to add its own “properly sourced information” about Caputo, including that he “denies ever working for Putin, and scoffs at…accusations that he was ‘Putin’s image maker.’”

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Other noteworthy additions to Caputo’s life and career include that “he lived aboard a tugboat with a parrot,” and that his “work on high-profile campaigns drew attention because of his trademark use of volunteers in chicken suits and deploying strippers outside a debate.”

In August, an investigation by Wikipedia administrators determined that the edits were made by one person using multiple sockpuppet accounts.

The culprit, using the pseudonym “Baldassn,” subsequently admitted that they had been “paid by Zeppelin Communications on behalf of Michael R. Caputo” to make the edits.

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Zeppelin Communications PR account executive Sean Dwyer, who shares his last name with the main sock account, “DwyerSP,” and whose Twitter handle is “@DwyerSP,” appears to be the person behind the accounts.

Snopes Chews Up False Cheeseburger Emoji Story

— Award-winning fact-checking website Snopes cites my blog post debunking Fox News “cheeseburger emoji controversy”

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Earlier this week I debunked claims that Fox News failed to report former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s indictment in favour of a story about cheeseburger emojis.

The post has been cited by award-winning fact-checking website Snopes.

From the “About” page of Snopes website:

The Snopes.com web site was founded by David Mikkelson, a project begun in 1994 as an expression of his interest in researching urban legends that has since grown into the oldest and largest fact-checking site on the Internet, one widely regarded by journalists, folklorists, and laypersons alike as one of the world’s essential resources. Snopes.com is routinely included in annual “Best of the Web” lists and has been the recipient of two Webby awards. Snopes.com personnel have made multiple appearances as guests on national news programs such as 20/20ABC World NewsCNN Sunday Morning, and NPR’s All Things Considered, and they and their work have been profiled in numerous major news publications, including The New York Times, the Los Angeles TimesThe Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal, and Reader’s Digest.

With over 20 years’ experience as a professional researcher and writer, David has created in Snopes.com what has come to be regarded as an online touchstone of rumor research. The site’s work has been described as painstaking, scholarly, and reliable, and has been lauded by the world’s top folklorists, including Jan Harold BrunvandGary Alan Fine, and Patricia Turner. Hundreds of the site’s articles have been cited by authors in a variety of disciplines, and various of their articles have been published in textbooks currently in use in the U.S. and Canadian school systems.

Via “Did Fox News Ignore News of Paul Manafort’s Indictment and Cover a Cheeseburger Emoji Controversy Instead?” by Kim LaCapria, Snopes, October 30, 2017:

Conservative news did not make a meal of a silly emoji story about cheeseburgers instead of covering the federal investigation into alleged Russian election tampering.

[…]

Although it appears that the meme began as a joke about Fox News covering a cheeseburger emoji controversy in lieu of the topical events surrounding Paul Manafort, it quickly became something people on social media believed was literally the case.

Independent fact-checking site Shooting the Messenger moved quickly to debunk the story:

But did the famously Trump-friendly news network really fail to report Manafort’s indictment in favour of Google’s apparent emoji cheeseburger crisis?

The answer, unfortunately for Hannity-haters everywhere, is no.

As this clip from this morning’s Fox & Friends shows, the bulk of airtime was spent in anticipation of the indictment, with the emoji story briefly appearing to pad out the show between updates….

The story later made an appearance as part of a brief news round-up that aired immediately before a commercial break.

By comparison, CNN also covered the emoji debate, yet Twitter focused on the early morning show’s comprehensive coverage of the Manafort news.

Click here to read the full article.