May 30, 2024 | The NYT

Information Laundromat tool detects banned Russian propaganda across hundreds of websites

Over the last year, the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD) at the George Marshall Fund, the University of Amsterdam and ISD developed the Information Laundromat, an open-source tool to uncover content and metadata similarities between websites spreading disinformation. Using it, we found Russian propaganda spread across hundreds of websites— ranging from mirror sites to content aggregators to faux local news outlets and spirituality and men’s websites. These sites were accessible to users in the EU, Canada and other countries where outlets such as Russia Today (RT) were blocked following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in 2022. As featured in the New York Times, our findings show that websites like ‘Man Stuff News,’ known for stereotypical masculine content, was part of a long list of websites repurposing Russian propaganda as world news articles. In one example on Man Stuff News, an article featured the same text from an RT article minimising the news of an international arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin. As outlined in our report, articles were often published as replicas openly or in other cases, are accessible around the world, even in countries with active blocks on RT, with many later making their way to social media.

ISD Senior OSINT Analyst Kevin D. Reyes is co-author of ‘The Russian Propaganda Nesting Doll: How RT is Layered Into the Digital Information Environment’. The full report is available through ASD’s website.