InfoWarrior$

— Fiverr accounts are charging up to $135 to publish sponsored content on conspiracy website Planet InfoWars

Alex Jones (source)

Last month, I blogged about the HuffPost’s retraction of a sponsored article it appears was part of a coordinated PR campaign to burnish the reputation of former Trump advisor Felix Sater.

The author, an Indian content marketer who goes by the name Waqas KH, was paid via freelancing website Fiverr to publish the now-retracted story.

He’s not the only one running the pay-to-publish scheme.

At least seven Fiverr accounts are offering similar services, with some accounts charging up to $135 to publish sponsored content on Planet InfoWars, a self-described “activist network” and the sister website to conspiracy news website InfoWars.

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InfoWars and Planet InfoWars are owned by Alex Jones, once described by New York magazine as “America’s leading conspiracy theorist.”

Planet InfoWars allows paying members to contribute content, but doesn’t necessarily prohibit them from publishing sponsored content – as long as they agree not to link to unrelated websites, or to solicit the buying or selling of products.

It’s unclear what, if any, editorial vetting processes are in place.

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HuffPost Deletes Sponsored Trump-Russia Article

— HuffPost deletes sponsored news story about controversial “Russia-gate” figure/former Donald Trump business partner Felix Sater

Last week, I blogged about a coordinated PR campaign seemingly intended to burnish the reputation of controversial Russian-American real estate investor Felix Sater, who collaborated with Trump on a number of high-profile development projects.

Now it emerges that U.S. news website, HuffPost (formerly The Huffington Post), has retracted an article it appears was part of the fake news campaign.

The deleted article, “Case Against Felix Sater Dismissed By New York Court,” was published by Waqas KH, founder of Pakistani SEO marketing website, SteveSeos.com.

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On Fiverr, Waqas goes by the name “niko_seo.”

For roughly $80, niko_seo will “publish your story or business story on Huffingtonpost with my contributor account.”

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In an e-mail, Waqas confirmed that someone paid him to publish the article, but wouldn’t say who.

Meanwhile, HuffPost has deleted all of Waqas’ content. Click the link to the former contributor’s article and you’ll see a message which states: “This post from The Huffington Post Contributor Platform is no longer available on our site.”

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The article is just one of several recent news items about Sater that have popped up on pay-to-publish digital marketing websites, and which are currently being spread by dozens of fake Twitter accounts.

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Sater denies knowing about any efforts to burnish his reputation.

Update, December 14, 2017: Yesterday, I sent an e-mail asking HuffPost editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen to comment. Today, a spokesperson for HuffPost sent me this statement:

Anyone found to be self-publishing paid content on the HuffPost Contributors Network is in violation of our terms of use. Anyone we discover to be engaging in such abuse has their post removed from the site and is banned from future publication.

NBT Films: Debunked Again

— Techdirt reports my post about debunked YouTuber’s copyright complaint against fact-checking website Snopes

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Via “Snopes Debunks Fake YouTube Video; Video’s Creator Responds With A Bogus DMCA Notice” by Tim Cushing, Techdirt, December 6, 2017:

from the pressing-the-shut-up-button dept

Nothing But the Truth Films (NBT) has a credibility problem. Oh, the irony, I would normally say, except for the fact NBT deals mostly with this sort of “truth.”

We present the black and white facts about the geopolitical climate which include Islam, Illuminati, Freemasonry, Cults and more. See how your freedoms are slowly eroding and spread the message with the help of our channel.

[…]

One popular video on NBT’s YouTube channel shows a supposed Islamic man angrily and bitterly decrying the religion after having his eyes opened by [NBT creator J.K. Sheindlin’s book]. But the video isn’t what it seems: it’s actually footage taken from somewhere else, dealing with an entirely different issue, but with NBT’s fabricated subtitles giving the impression Sheindlin’s book has unconverted another follower of Islam.

It made the internet rounds enough that Snopes picked it up and debunked it.

[…]

Having been caught out, Sheindlin did what any self-respecting truth-seeker huckster would do: he decided to get Google involved. The invaluable Dean Sterling first spotted the bogus DMCA notice:

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.

Read the full article by clicking here.

Sekulow Gets Blindsided

— Watch Trump-affiliated lawyer Jordan Sekulow’s rambling on-air response to news that former Trump adviser Michael Flynn had been charged with lying to the FBI

Amid the American carnage of yesterday’s news that former national security adviser Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI, you might have missed this gem via Trump-affiliated lawyer Jordan Sekulow, of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).

Sekulow is the son of ACLJ’s chief counsel Jay Sekulow, who is part of the legal team charged with advising Trump during the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into allegations that Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with the Russian government.

Jordan and Jay Sekulow (source)

Yesterday, the younger Sekulow went on Fox News to give his opinion on an unrelated story about Bill Clinton.

During that segment, Fox host Bill Hemmer interrupted Sekulow to break the news about Flynn.

Here’s Sekulow’s unscripted response:

Hemmer: The charge is about making false statements, so that could be what he is going to address at 10:30 a.m. eastern time, the charge of lying.

Sekulow: Yeah, and I think that that could still work with the plea deal itself, it depends on who is taking him to court, whether it is the special counsel or another matter. But if it is the special counsel – it should be under that jurisdiction – then those false statements, it could be that he is being with them, that could then lead to, if it is correct, and we don’t know if he actually does have a plea deal or not, but if it’s correct that could be the catalyst against the actual plea deal.

For the characteristically cocksure Sekulow, his response here is quite the turnaround.

In August, Sekulow went on Fox’s America’s Newsroom to dismiss the Mueller investigation and to personally attack me and other independent researchers including Brooke Binkowski, managing editor of fact-checking website Snopes, for having published critical statements and unflattering news stories about Trump, claiming our efforts served to underscore “just how much hatred there is out there for this President of the United States, who was elected so overwhelmingly by the American people.”

You can read more about our efforts via this article by Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn, which includes these three Shooting the Messenger scoops:

1. That former Trump business partner Tevfik Arif tried to scrub online details about his 2010 arrest aboard Turkey’s presidential yacht during a private party attended by illegally trafficked prostitutes;

2. That Felix Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer and Trump business partner, possibly used a pseudonym to delete information about his criminal history from Trump’s Wikipedia page;

3. And that I’d identified dozens of posts written under Trump’s name on his now-defunct Trump University blog that appeared to plagiarise content from mainstream news outlets including USA Today, CNN, and The New York Times.

Faux News about Fox News?

— Did Fox bury news that former Trump adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI?

In October, I helped debunk the claim that Fox News failed to report the recent indictment of former Trump campaign aide Paul Manafort in favour of a story about cheeseburger emojis.

Now comes the claim that Fox buried news about another Trump aide, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who today pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI.

Michael Flynn with Trump (source)

The claim went viral after this tweet by CNN’s senior media reporter Oliver Darcy:

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That tweet was followed shortly by this from NBC’s national politics reporter Alex Seitz-Wald:

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The New York Daily News subsequently ran the claim with the headline: “Fox News focuses on Lynch-Clinton tarmac meeting immediately after Michael Flynn’s guilty plea”

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But did the famously Trump-friendly news network really bury news of Flynn’s guilty plea?

Not according to the Fox News website, where the “big story” currently leading the headlines is, you guessed it…

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Further investigation shows that Fox started tweeting the story at least an hour and a half prior to Darcy’s initial tweet.

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Meanwhile, the Clinton-Lynch story has taken a back seat.

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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.

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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