27 May 201916:13

Misinformation in Colombian and Argentine media

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At the beginning of April, the Argentine media portal Infobae reprinted an article from the Colombian weekly Semana dated November 29, 2014, Russian espionage in the world, with a new title, Exposed Russian spies’ attempts to steal strategic information from Colombia. Semana also reprinted its old material on March 31, also with a new headline: Tentacles of Russian espionage in Latin America.

Neither of the recent reports contains anything new; they simply repeat the ‘exclusive’ Colombian story from five years ago and seem to be replicating the conspiracy theory of an alleged global Russian information intelligence programme, codenamed “Planet,” operating since 2003. The writers assure their readers that mystical Russian hackers are targeting the military, political, economic, and science and technology information contained on public and private carriers. Anonymous representatives from the special services are traditionally quoted to support the story.

It is in this tone that they report that government offices in Mexico City have been subjected to cyber attacks from Russia for many years; that traces of Russian hacker activity were also found in the Colombian city of Medellin; and that massive attacks on law enforcement computers from Russian IP addresses have allegedly been recorded in Argentina.

The absurdity of these claims against Russia is obvious. First, the story provides no evidence that the supercomputer network mentioned actually exists. The investigation sources are anonymous. The highlighted “facts” don't hold up even against the most superficial criticism and they clearly target an unprepared audience. In particular, cyber attacks on the Argentine Defence Ministry in 2017 are attributed to Russia only because they were committed from IP addresses located on the territory of the Russian Federation – when it's generally known that there is no possibility of objectively and reliably establishing the sources of such actions.

Another weighty argument that such charges against Russia are unsustainable is the absence of any official complaints against the Russian Federation by state bodies in Mexico or Argentina, the alleged long-time targets of Russian hacker attacks.

It is indicative that this artificial round of the anti-Russia spy fever in the South American media has been launched amid the ongoing hysteria in Washington over Russia’s military technical cooperation with Venezuela – hence the persistence in creating an enemy image embodied by Russia to scare ordinary citizens in South American and Caribbean countries who for the most part have no prejudice or suspicion against us.

There is an interesting technical detail regarding the story – since January 2019, Colombian Semana is half owned by London-based Colombian businessman Jaime Gilinski Bacal who is a US Harvard University graduate, and Argentine Infobae has a content-sharing contract with the Washington Post and is considered a pro-American portal in the region.

We believe that the reprints of the Semana weekly’s provocative article from five years ago are part of the efforts by the anti-Russia forces in South America to create a negative image of Russia and undermine its political and economic standing in the region. Also, dirty campaign techniques are being used to discredit Russia’s international authority – disseminating Russophobic rumours and fantasies. We believe that the residents of South American countries that are friendly to Russia will not buy these attempts to falsify the truth but will draw the right conclusions about unscrupulous journalists reprinting old fake news.





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