RUSSIAGATE: NYT, FB & FBI Say Anti-Trump Site, Now Shutdown, Was Russian Effort to Help Trump Win

Misgivings about who ran this site can co-exist with legitimate alarm about combined attacks by the FBI, the Times and other corporate media on the political nature — not the accuracy — of its content, writes Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

A website that Facebook and Twitter banned and which they and The New York Times say was being financed from Russia to help President Donald Trump get re-elected, until it was shut down on Friday, published several articles harshly critical of Trump, including one that called him “unstable and unhinged.”

The site, PeaceData (peacedata.net), also ran articles critical of Democratic nominee Joe Biden and other Democrats.

It was the site’s content, which critiqued both Establishment parties, more than its alleged financing from Russia, that appears to have alarmed U.S. intelligence agencies, corporate media and social media giants, leading to the site shutting itself down.

The New York Times reported:

“The Russian group that interfered in the 2016 presidential election is at it again, using a network of fake accounts and a website set up to look like a left-wing news site, Facebook and Twitter said on Tuesday.

The disinformation campaign by the Kremlin-backed group, known as the Internet Research Agency, is the first public evidence that the agency is trying to repeat its efforts from four years ago and push voters away from the Democratic presidential candidate, Joseph R. Biden Jr., to help President Trump.

Intelligence agencies have warned for months that Russia and other countries were actively trying to disrupt the November election, and that Russian intelligence agencies were feeding conspiracy theories designed to alienate Americans by laundering them through fringe sites and social media.”

Twitter and Facebook acted after the Federal Bureau of Investigation tipped them off. The alleged “Russian operation” was first “detected by the National Security Agency,” the Times says. The FBI said it “provided information in this matter to better protect against threats to the nation’s security and our democratic processes.”

In other words, a very obscure left-wing website, critical of Trump and Biden, was chillingly deemed a “threat” to national security and democracy by America’s federal law enforcement agency.

Questions

PeaceData ran a rebuttal on Wednesday but questions remain about who ran the site. So far, Consortium News has been unable to obtain contact information for its listed editor, Jake Sullivan.

Misgivings about who ran this site, however, can co-exist with legitimate alarm about the combined attacks by the FBI, the Times and other corporate media on the political nature — and not the accuracy — of the published content. That presents the spectacle of a leading news outlet and two social media companies joining a state security agency in an effort to trample press freedom.

One headline of a PeaceData article that the Times cited as supporting Trump and white supremacist groups was headlined, “Boogaloo Movement: USA Far Right is Growing Thanks to Donald Trump.”

In later editions, the Times removed the reference to this particular article from the story, but its original inclusion raises questions about the diligence — and independence — of the paper’s work here.

The Times‘ reporters on the story did not appear to have read the article, whose contents are the exact opposite of the impression the Times was trying to create.

The PeaceData piece began:

“As of this writing, the United States is rocked with civil unrest due to racism and police violence, and the country continues to break records for the most cases of coronavirus. The unstable and unhinged president Donald Trump makes things far worse domestically and internationally with his inflammatory language and his disdain for science. As this occurs, a new, radical right-wing ‘movement’, one fueled at least in part by Trump’s racist rhetoric, has entered the U.S. This is known as the ‘Boogaloo’ movement, and while loosely organized, has as its goal civil war. Members tend to be gun enthusiasts, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.”

PeaceData also took on Trump over several other issues, including climate change, Covid-19, and immigration.

IRA Again

PeaceData was accused of being funded by the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, which the Times says “was very active in the 2016 presidential election, and a recent bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report detailed Russian interference in support of Mr. Trump’s election.” In fact, half of IRA’s Facebook ads were purchased after the 2016 election and half of those before the election supported Hillary Clinton, and the other half, Trump. The IRA spent about $100,000 on the ads, compared to the $6.5 billion spent by the Clinton and Trump campaigns.

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“Now Facebook and Twitter are offering evidence of this meddling,” the fourth paragraph of the Times story begins, although nowhere in the rest of the article is any evidence presented. The Times says Facebook made its decision based on a report — which the Times does not link to — written by a company called Graphika.

While spotlighting PeaceData’s purported links to the Russian government, the Times fails to provide readers the same service when it comes to Graphika’s own official connections, in this case to the U.S. government.

Graphika describes itself as an:

“SAAS [software as a service] and managed services company. Our cutting-edge technology creates large-scale explorable maps of social media landscapes. Our in-depth analysis reveals meaningful insights to help clients and partners understand complex online networks and take decisive action.”

Among its clients are the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Defense Department’s Minerva Initiative. Its report is peppered with intelligence jargon like, “we can conclude with high confidence.”

The Graphika report, linked here, claims, “The personas the network created masqueraded as left-wing journalists and editors.” This “network” consisting of the site and social media accounts, is supposedly run by IRA, a private company. Nowhere in the 38-page report does Graphika offer any evidence of IRA funding, such as wire transfers or linked bank accounts.

That didn’t stop Twitter from suspending five accounts linked to PeaceData because of “platform manipulation that we can reliably attribute to Russian state actors,” even though IRA has never been proven to be a state actor.

One-time home in St. Petersburg, Russia, of Internet Research Agency. (WikiMedia Commons)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted IRA officials in 2018 for supposedly interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. But the Department of Justice, after stalling on IRA lawyers’ demands for discovery, then dropped the case in March, arguing that the company sought to “weaponize” the documents they obtained. A federal judge had earlier ordered Mueller to stop referring to the IRA as a state actor.

The dropping of the 2018 case against the IRA is not mentioned in The New York Times account on Wednesday accusing the IRA of new allegations of electoral interference.

Political Content Attacked

Beyond the allegation that the IRA was paying for the website, Graphika, the Times (and other corporate outlets), Facebook, Twitter and the FBI focused sharply on the political angle of the website.

“The Peace Data site appeared to be a more worrying example of ‘information laundering, a more covert and potentially dangerous effort by Moscow,” reported the Times, which has itself made a habit of laundering anonymous U.S. intelligence disinformation — from WMD in Iraq to Russiagate.

“Russian intelligence agencies have used allies and operatives to place articles, including disinformation, into various fringe websites,” the Times said.

The Graphika report adds:

“In keeping with that identity, they [this alleged IRA “network” of Facebook pages and Twitter handles] published and shared articles about the race protests in the United States, accusations of foreign interference and war crimes committed by the U.S., corruption, and the suffering caused by capitalism. They particularly aimed their posts at progressive groups in the U.S. and UK and criticized both right-wing and center-left politicians while endorsing progressive and left-wing policies.”

Graphika seemed alarmed that on PeaceData’s Arabic-language site “some articles also attacked France in general and President Emmanuel Macron in particular, and accused them of an ‘imperialist’ approach toward Africa.” This is in line with the Times quoting Ben Nimmo, director of investigations at Graphika and an Atlantic Council fellow, as saying, “In terms of posting, they were clearly significantly left of the Biden-Harris campaign,” as if this were a threat to “national security” as the FBI contends.

PeaceData had a mix of original and republished articles, Graphika tells us, from publications such as The Grayzone, which Graphika smears as a “pro-Kremlin site.”

Troubled by Assange Reporting

Site cited for sympathy for Assange.

Graphika also reported in a disapproving tone that PeaceData wrote stories favorable to imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange:

“These articles systematically presented Assange and the leakers as victims of an oppressive system. Snowden, for example, was termed a ‘global hero,’ and Manning was labeled a ‘fighter against the concealment of the truth’ who was subjected to ‘police state viciousness.’ The court case against Assange was referred to as a ‘kangaroo court,’ ‘political persecution,’ and a ‘perceived international conspiracy.’ Assange himself was described as ‘rotting to death’ in a UK prison, the victim of ‘Starmer’s crusade against whistleblowing,’ and a victim of ‘mendacious and vindictive’ treatment by the UK legal system.

The PeaceData website also referenced WikiLeaks in its coverage of another issue: the chemical attacks on civilians in Douma, Syria, in April 2018.

On five occasions between December 2019 and May 2020, peacedata[.]net reproduced articles that alleged, based on Wikileaks leaks, that the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had doctored its report on the Douma attack. PeaceData’s decision to reproduce these reports is consistent with earlier Russian operations against the OPCW, notably the attempt by agents from Russian military intelligence to hack the OPCW in April 2018.”

Graphika generally runs down the progressive line of the site, pointing out that it was hostile to both Trump and Biden, which of course is a perfectly legitimate position to take. But there is apparently something nefarious about this, according to the Graphika report:

“There is no indication that the freelancers who wrote the articles were anything but sincere in their writing. However, in the context of an operation run by fake personas from Russia, the decision to espouse progressive positions and attack both center-left and right-wing politicians indicates an attempt to woo more left-wing audiences for future influence operations. This is consistent with the operation’s targeting of progressive Facebook groups, discussed below; it is also consistent with the original IRA’s attempt to depress support for then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by infiltrating and influencing progressive audiences.”

This reduces journalism that rejects both Establishment parties to merely “an attempt to woo more left-wing audiences for future influence operations.”

To the extent that any publication, including The New York Times, tries to sway its audience to a particular point of view, it is engaging in an “influence operation.” Ever since someone put a chisel to a clay tablet or pen to paper the aim has been influence. But it’s never called an “operation” unless it’s to smear anti-Establishment journalism as an “intelligence operation” directed by a hostile, foreign power.

Fake Editors

“Jake Sullivan” from the now shutdown website PeaceData.

Though the Times says PeaceData hired “real Americans” to write for it, it also says the site “used personas with computer-generated images to create what looked like a legitimate news organization.”

PeaceData’s editors and contributors were listed with headshots before the site was abruptly shut down on Friday. Graphika contends their photos were computer-generated composites: “Graphika analyzed these profile pictures and concluded with high confidence that all six were created by the form of artificial intelligence known as Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN).”

Business Insider, which concludes Sullivan is not a real person, says it tried to contact him and received no reply. It claims that Sullivan’s image found on PeaceData’s site appears nowhere else on the internet except as a “customer” rating a Russian shipping company.

A TinEye reverse search by Consortium News turned up no examples of Sullivan’s PeaceData picture on the internet.

The Business Insider article contains a purported interview with an American freelancer who says he’s shocked to learn he’s been duped by the Russians. The writer’s name is not revealed and he is identified only as “John,” making it impossible to verify the authenticity of the interview.

It would be highly unethical behavior that should be condemned if indeed made-up persons posing as editors and contributors were presented to the public by whoever ran PeaceData.

It is disturbing and unacceptable if “Jake Sullivan” is not a real person, as well as if a publication is secretly financed — by anyone. Hiding the owners’ identity did not preserve credibility but undermined it by opening themselves to the U.S. intelligence-initiated attack.

In the end, the content of the website’s articles should be judged on their own merits.

“John” never said he was directed what to write about and said his articles were lightly edited. The Business Insider interviewer, Charles Davis, suggests almost insidiously to “John” that 80 percent of Peace Data’s content are genuinely progressive articles, while the rest is inserted as propaganda.

Davis tells “John”: “I’m going to speculate here, but sometimes [these sites] publish completely legit, solidly progressive commentary – 80% of it could be legit – and then there’s like that 20% that is ‘and this is why we must defend [Syrian dictator] Bashar al-Assad.’”

Here is the brief response that PeaceData published to the allegations against it on Wednesday:

“On September 1, 2020 The New York Times, Reuters, CNN and other corporate media sources published the articles slandering our independent news site and our authors. These articles claimed that PD is a Russian propaganda tool.

We’re shocked and appalled! We can proudly say that it’s an ugly lie. Our news site is created by the people and for the people to spread the word about peace and expose greedy corporate powers and warmongers all over the world. We’re convinced that corporate media and their puppet masters want to destroy our journalism and shut us up forever for speaking truth about them. Don’t believe a single word from them. They hate truth and want it to disappear. We won’t allow them to do it.”

Later on Wednesday PeaceData published a more lengthy rebuttal.

Limited Reach

The very small reach this website had also raises questions about why it was given so much attention by the NSA, the FBI and corporate media as a “threat” to national security.   

“Despite their targeted efforts at audience building, they failed to gain significant traction, measured in likes, shares, and comments. Most of the network’s English-language posts achieved single-digit engagement figures,” Graphika said.

This is what the FBI calls a threat to American democracy.

Progressive views may be a threat to the Establishment but not to the security of the nation, which the Establishment continuously confuses itself with.

It may have been a shock to “John” to find out who his real employers may have been, but it had no bearing on the publication of his articles. If “John” is a real person, he appears to have succumbed to the relentless campaign to denigrate journalism (even his own) that critiques both Establishment wings as being part of a “foreign influence campaign.”

The Establishment does not want to be criticized. To protect itself, it deems legitimate criticism as being controlled by a hostile foreign power intent on undermining “democracy” — the name the Establishment gives to the lucrative game it plays and urgently needs to keep going amid growing social unrest in the United States.

This appears to have been yet another example of Establishment actors trying to deprive agency from dissident journalism in the United States, as if dissenting American writers cannot come to positions critical of the U.S. on their own.

The Times says PeaceData was “set up to look like a left-wing website.” In fact, regardless of who ran it, it is a left-wing website of the sort that questions both major parties.  As it lay outside Establishment circles, it was marginalized and depicted as a destabilizing instrument of a foreign power by an Establishment media that thinks it alone possess the truth and the correct perspective.

Ominously, the Times ends its report warning that unnamed “researchers are also concerned about homegrown disinformation campaigns, and the latest Russian effort went to some lengths to appear like it was made in the United States.”

The takedown of PeaceData worryingly may be a pretext to go after legitimate “homegrown” media as “disinformation campaigns” if they do not conform to the Establishment narrative.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former UN correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional career as a stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

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76 comments for “RUSSIAGATE: NYT, FB & FBI Say Anti-Trump Site, Now Shutdown, Was Russian Effort to Help Trump Win

  1. Desmond Kahn
    September 7, 2020 at 22:32

    I want to thank Mr. Lauria for exposing the unbelievable distortions of the mainstream media, including the PBS Newshour, which I watch nightly with my wife, because she likes it. Thank you for setting the record straight, Mr. Lauria. Wait till I post a link to this on Facebook. Some of my acquaintances may blow their lids (hee hee!).

  2. Zhu
    September 7, 2020 at 03:30

    Try to stay out of the homeless shelter. Politics is far higher on pyramid of needs than food and shelter.

  3. Zhu
    September 7, 2020 at 02:30

    Nut theories, including nutty conspiracy fictions, rely on the attitude “it feels, so it must be true!”

    • Zhu
      September 7, 2020 at 02:32

      Should “Feels good” . Mea culpa!

  4. P. Michael Garber
    September 7, 2020 at 01:15

    Do I have this right? By setting up a fake website (Peacedata.net) targeting progressives sympathetic to anti-war messaging, the Russians plot to throw the 2020 election to Trump.

    Praise be to the New York Times for shedding light on the dark forces shaping our reality.

  5. Anonymot
    September 6, 2020 at 22:07

    I find it hard to believe that anyone who has been reading Consortium News, perhaps anyone who thinks about what they read anywhere, believe any political content of the NYT or declaration of the FBI, CIA, say nothing of fb. The NYT hasn’t printed a serious article since 2 billionaires bailed them out in 2014/15 in return for a major editorial voice.

  6. IvyMike
    September 6, 2020 at 19:59

    Bloomberg ran the most sophisticated and expensive media blitz in Dem Primary history and it was a total failure. We’re to worry about a few piss ant hackers in Russia?

    • Zhu
      September 7, 2020 at 02:38

      Well, Dems in the Church of Hillary (Fundamentalist) can’t admit to making mistakes. They have to scapegoat SOMEBODY.

  7. Robert Emmett
    September 6, 2020 at 19:00

    Right on top of it when you most need to be as usual, CN, in this ongoing Russia-on-everything craze.

    Another thought. Wasn’t there some fake high dudgeon by mainstream media over “fake news” stemming from the PropOrNot brouhaha a few years ago? And wasn’t there talk then of a “special” panel or committee, overseen by gov’t agencies, high rollers of main stream media plus social media moguls, to become judge, jury & executioner of articles or alternative new sites to deep-six from public view on account of being judged “fake” by the self-appointed experts? And wasn’t that very Prop-or-gander report itself shoddily done and poorly sourced? Hmmm.

    Of course, the idea for a master panel to become judge, jury & executioner of news fit for public consumption soon slipped from view once the under-lying report itself was shown to be bogus. Could this recent instance be another trial run? Or are these instances of high hokum churned out without much care or craft merely to sow more confusion among a public that seemingly doesn’t go much for details anyway but is drawn just to the latest hot headline?

  8. robert e williamson jr
    September 6, 2020 at 14:05

    Bill Barr has to be loving having his boots licked by these billionaires behaving badly.

    I believe there needs to be a national effort at building the number of guillotines that we need to rid the

    country of these high end food chain parasites.

  9. Carolyn L Zaremba
    September 6, 2020 at 13:38

    The New York Times is still claiming that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, even after all accusations were disproven, including in the results of the ludicrous Mueller investigation which found “no evidence of collusion”. They and the Democrats will keep repeating this lie, which proves that they are NOT a source you want to trust for information.

  10. September 6, 2020 at 12:40

    This attempt to provide complete information about an event that is at the least mentioned with emphasis by every mass media outlet without context or effort to gain it, is an example of Consortium’s value, especially during this election period. Anyone have an idea for how to intelligently vote against the establishment? Which candidate is more the marionette?

  11. Stan W.
    September 6, 2020 at 10:58

    In effect, this article describes a circular firing squad.

  12. montag2
    September 6, 2020 at 02:44

    This flood of disinformation has been coming at us since the repeal of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, and it seems certain now that the spooks lobbied for that repeal.

    For that reason alone, that repeal needs to be mentioned every time there’s a new story coming from the spooks. Now, yeah, the spooks could always get around the Act by planting propaganda in the European press and letting it filter back to domestic news outlets, but that was circuitous and not always effective. Now, however, the combination of internet platforms and the repeal means that all kinds of rank horseshit gets shoveled at us as news.

    I can’t help but recall Bill Casey’s remark that when everything the public knows is wrong, they can be sure their disinformation campaign has been a success. I’m convinced that the repeal of Smith-Mundt is but one more rung on that ladder to complete information control.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      September 6, 2020 at 13:40

      Hear, hear. You are exactly correct. The mass propaganda promulgated through the “mainstream” media consists of one lie after another (with the probable exception of the weather report and sports scores). The NYT is one of those organizations that is determined to make Casey’s dream come true.

    • Brockland A.T.
      September 6, 2020 at 20:24

      The CIA’s Operation Mockingbird was well underway by 1953.

      Smith-Mundt seems to have been more about which departments of high officials had power over the official narrative than protecting the public from propaganda.

      In the era of Little Brother, Smith-Mundt’s focus on regulating Big brother seems quaint.

  13. Rob Roy
    September 5, 2020 at 22:25

    Another great article, Joe.
    The Consortium News must never be banned by the Establishment, though I suspect sometime that will be attempted.

  14. willow
    September 5, 2020 at 21:10

    The more “extensive rebuttal” by Peace Data that Joe linked in this article leads to a news guard security warning and when I tried it again it said page not found.

    • Consortiumnews.com
      September 5, 2020 at 22:59

      That is because the entire site was taken down on Friday.

      • September 6, 2020 at 18:58

        Unfortunate, as it looks like an admission of guilt. When the WaPo attacked a number of American websites as “Russian tools,” they all stuck it out and treated it as free publicity. (Google is the real threat, as it can cut them off.)

  15. Edmond V.O. Katusz
    September 5, 2020 at 19:03

    Actually this Russophobia is quite silly as the “Americans” should worry much more the Chinese then the Russians. The Middle Kingdom has been (pushed) away for some time, but is back and really very powerful in almost any aspect of society.

    “Our experience in the 20 years from 1958 to 1978 teaches us that poverty is not socialism, that socialism means eliminating poverty.”
    Deng Xiaoping, Selected Works Vol 3, 15th April 1985.

    Look were China is now! Edmond V.O. Katusz

    • Annie McStravick
      September 6, 2020 at 07:05

      In what sense should Americans “worry” about China?

      • September 6, 2020 at 12:49

        Yes, especially if one compares the actions of the USA with Chinese actions both militarily and economically. Has China attempted to circle the USA with offensive weapon capability? And Nixon’s opening can easily be interpreted as a desire to gain access to a 1.2oo million market while opening the opportunity for corporations to export production to cheap labor.

      • rosemerry
        September 6, 2020 at 16:57

        Because elimination of poverty is a terrible blow to the rich, who never had it so good as in the last few decades in the USA, and especially in the year of lockdowns and big profits on the stock exchange! Chinese policies would not allow this!!!

        • Realist
          September 7, 2020 at 14:50

          Right you are, Rosemerry. It was American policy, not Chinese, that offshored all of our jobs to that country. It was our own corporate oligarchs who masterminded and controlled this vast migration of wealth, decimating the American middle class and creating an even more affluent Chinese one in its place. Moreover, it was the government in Washington that provided corporate tax breaks to sweeten the pot and accelerate the process. The Chinese controlled none of this, they merely declined to look a gift horse in the mouth. Meanwhile, America’s aristocracy, always devising new cons to separate victims from their money and property, set about concomitantly looting Russia as it was forcibly transformed from socialism to uber capitalism under their American puppet Yeltsin. Somehow expatriot American tycoons like Bill Browder became Russian oligarchs overnight as the Russian people were stripped of their patrimony. If anything both Russian and American workers should feel a comaradarie in having been exploited for all they’re worth by the same class of criminals. Now these criminals have decided they don’t like what THEY have created in both China and Russia–they feel threatened by their own creations–and are using the only club left in their bag to get out of the rough, namely, warfare, naked aggression, and financial extortion. Moreover, they are doing it unashamedly out in the open as no one is left to believe they are acting out of principles or good intentions.

      • Zhu
        September 7, 2020 at 03:37

        They might steal our scientific secrets, like the Flat Earth, Creation Science, Flood Geology, pi = 3 math, White Supremacy History, etc., etc. (NB: I’m being ironic.)

    • Zhu
      September 7, 2020 at 02:49

      Lots of Americans of every faction are upset that the Chinese are not pior or submissive.

  16. Edmond V.O. Katusz
    September 5, 2020 at 18:27

    L.S.

    Here in the Netherlands the news media suck it up like candy. There is e.g. a website called hXXps://nu.nl, that attract a lot of readers with their short up to date news flashes. It was there that I read about this whole silly case. They were, as most of the time, the echo chamber of other policor news media with no real research done by themselves. I angrily commented that they just copied this “news”, not even mentioning peacedata.net. Within minutes I had found that site and I told nu.nl that at least they could have mentioned that.

    Have been trying to find that post and my comment on their website, but it seems gone, not that there was a chance that I would find my comment, because when I deviate to much from the politically correct stance my comments are deleted or not published.

    Anyway, I just did a little research to find out about some of the writers. There was Steve Topple for example. A real live person, who in 2018 did a show with George Galloway and if there is a real life, larger then life, person it is George Galloway, isn’t it so? You can find Steve Topple on twitter with his picture. You can compare it to the shows with mr. Galloway you can find om YouTube.
    Anything wrong with Steve? Well he may have some opinions that other people don’t like, but you know what? Free speech and all that.

    What I did not like was the empty page you got when you clicked on “Abou Us”. There should have been somebody or something. That made for a bad impression.

    I did a whois search. The website was young. Looked it up just now again
    Dates 212 days old
    Created on 2020-02-06
    Expires on 2021-02-06
    Updated on 0000-12-31
    Anything wrong with that?

    There was something funny, because I wrote two comments concerning this article “Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s Deleted Webpages Show She’s Little More Than a Western Regime Change Puppet” because I had found pages in Russian some time earlier about the exact program of the opposition. There was also my reaction about David Otness’ comment with whom I disagreed.
    Both my comments never made it to the daylight, although they were supportive of the article. Oh, well … Maybe the publisher was already busy shutting down.

    Anyway, anybody can still read the articles on peacedata.net by using the Wayback Machine. Please do, to make up your own mind.

    Uhoh, my oh my, these articles are terrible, so horribly subverse, so stealthly trying to change the poor unthinking mind of the innocent reader. It really deserved to be eradicated from the internet. This proto-fascist action by Facebook, Twitter, the FBI was really necessary to protect us from this real fake news.
    Enjoy! Edmond V.O. Katusz

  17. DH Fabian
    September 5, 2020 at 16:05

    Well, at the conclusion of the Mueller investigation, we did say that Democrats would bring back Russiagate as if there had been no investigation at all. They have nothing else left to sell. In the real world, we saw how Trump was outraged at Russia’s refusal to allow him to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, but never mind that. Never mind that since taking office, we saw Trump reinforce economic sanctions against Russia, increase US/NATO troops near the Russian border (provocation) and oversee over three years of MSM anti-Russian propaganda. And above all, never mind the years we spent detailing that long, growing split in the former Dem voting base that ensured their 2016 and 2020 defeats — which has nothing to do with Russia.. This is a campaign year, and we hear the same old vague allegations about “Russian interference,” the same old claims that those who have been critical of the Democrat right wing are really “Russian operatives,” and so 0n. One would think Democrats could use their considerable wealth to hire some better campaign strategists.

  18. Aaron
    September 5, 2020 at 13:54

    Well it’s not unlike the RT criticism. I think if one watches a show by, say Jesse Ventura or Tyrell Ventura, they will see that they are very, very critical of Trump, and then the the network and hosts are accused in the court of public opinion of being a Russian plot to help Trump win? It makes no sense whatsoever and reveals an ulterior motive and extremely poor and incompetent journalism to accuse them of helping Trump. Democrats put out outrageous crap that turns out to be lies or really “fake” news in a literal sense. Just like when Hillary called her progressive opponent a Russian asset. Then that alienates their “left” readers and audience when it turns out to be false, fake, if you will, and that helps Trump. I think that may happen with the latest Atlantic stuff about Trump calling the soldiers “losers”, based on all “anonymous” sources. Just like in Russiagate and the Mueller stuff, if it turns out that it truly is fake news, that will really, really help Trump again, just like in 2016.

    • Daniel
      September 6, 2020 at 10:31

      There is a serious case to be made that the Dems’ behavior is meant to ensure that they lose. Nothing rakes in corporate cash like faking a #resistance (while giving the Repugs all that they dream of.)

  19. worldblee
    September 5, 2020 at 13:20

    We have always been at war with Peace Data…

    Good article, Joe, one that’s chilling in its potential ramifications.

  20. September 5, 2020 at 12:26

    And don’t forget the rank unconstitutionality of sanctions against and persecution of those who believe in BDS.

  21. September 5, 2020 at 11:14

    @ “Twitter and Facebook acted after the Federal Bureau of Investigation tipped them off.”

    There is a large First Amendment issue lurking there. If the FBI acted with a motive of chilling or suppressing speech or the exercise of the right of a free press, then the Bureau walked off the plank of legality.

  22. Eddie S
    September 5, 2020 at 10:36

    Great article and comments! After reading this account, as well as Patrick Martin’s over at the WSWS website, my take on this is that PeaceData was probably an attempt at some sort of commercial venture by some Russian huckster(s) – setup a website to get money from advertisers and maybe some direct donations too. It sounds like it was a pretty pathetic attempt at that, since apparently there were only ~14000 ‘subscribers’ (nowadays, I could setup a website about belly-button lint and probably get 100k subscribers within a year) and “single digit views” on some articles, which is pretty bad even for these left/progressive sites, which brings up another question about this. IF those crafty Rooskies were trying to sully the pure US populace with their evil left/Commie views and/or influence elections, why would they choose to even bother with ‘fellow-travelers’ (as long as we’re reverting to McCarthyism, let’s resurrect its colorful terminology!) like myself —- who are ALREADY left-sympathizers — by entering an already crowded market with yet another left/progressive website? Politically, wouldn’t it be way-more productive to try to influence the MSM, where all the voters are, so to-speak, and – electorally speaking – target the swing-states? As an explanation, the ‘commercial venture’ theory makes a lot more sense to me than the ‘political subterfuge’ theory.

    • DH Fabian
      September 5, 2020 at 16:23

      You put a lot of thought int0 formulating that scenario. All we need to do is figure out why Russia wants Trump to remain president after the measures Trump has taken against Russia. (P.S. Democrats lost 2020 because of their war on the poor. There are so many more poor today.)

    • Maricata
      September 5, 2020 at 19:53

      “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”

      — William Casey, CIA director, February 1981

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      September 6, 2020 at 13:56

      Thanks for mentioning Patrick Martin of the WSWS. He is one of the most trenchant writers on the site, although they are excellent. I support the Socialist Equality Party and used to write for the WSWS myself.

  23. September 5, 2020 at 10:16

    Very smelly.

  24. Citizen
    September 5, 2020 at 10:06

    It’s clear that the Western governments (US, UK, German, etc.) are determined to hound Putin to death and bring Russia to its knees, not disdaining the most nefarious disgusting ways.

    But what ordinary people in US can do against that?

  25. September 5, 2020 at 09:55

    Made me pull out a copy of the Federalist Papers and look at Article One of the Constitution. Your article describes a different version of freedom of speech , where the establishment takes upon itself determining what shall be free and what shall not. The rise of the power of the social media needs to be addressed, just as any power which becomes big enough and aggressive enough to threaten the interest of our citizens. Trump, the lightening rod for many things, is also one in this instance. Whatever our opinion of him, by forcing the establishment to simply override our rights under the First Amendment, he might precipitate action to confront the abuse described and begin to do something about it

  26. Daniel
    September 5, 2020 at 09:41

    How do we know that this PeaceData wasn’t set up by the FBI itself? Seriously. And, whatever the truth about this site, Graphica seems to be a very similar construct. Like Bellingcat. Like the NY Times. Reading this article, I had to wonder how different PeaceData was from western governments.

    When you lie by omission, actively work to deceive in favor of your narrative, shame others with woke tolkenism, stoke dangerous tribalism, and make/publish vague accusations based on sources and information that can never be verified, you lose all credibility. But then, credibility isn’t the point, is it. Shock and outrage are. And our dear leaders need us shocked and outraged for their new totalitarianism to work, and to prevent us from truly awakening to the implications of their propaganda.

    What a terrible world these power hungry disinformation creeps have made for us.

    • P. Michael Garber
      September 6, 2020 at 18:25

      Reading this article, I was reminded of the fake news site focused on Syria that Counterpunch became involved with, until Counterpunch was told by the CIA “it’s the Russians.” While it did appear that this Syria news site was peopled with fake personas, the only evidence linking it to Russia was the say-s0 of the CIA. Setting up such bogus news sources could be a way for the western intelligence to identify dissident voices and discredit genuine dissident news sites that fall for the ruse.

    • Keith McClary
      September 7, 2020 at 15:06

      “Graphica seems to be a very similar construct.”

      The giveaway is that their spokesman is Ben Nimmo.

  27. September 5, 2020 at 09:28

    An excellent piece of reporting giving the reader a good sense of perspective in this matter,

    It is frightening to learn the lengths to which American officials and the New York Times go to attack a small site guilty only of saying critical and fair-minded things about American politics.

    America is truly entering a new period of witch hunts.

    Well, that whole establishment lies about everything from Syria and Iraq to Venezuela and China, so why not a little site too?

    Are we reaching a time when saying something true is a crime in America?

    The FBI is starting to sound like the Catholic Church hierarchy at the time of Martin Luther

    This just adds to a truly ominous sense about the country and where it is going.

    Declining empires are dangerous beasts.

    • September 5, 2020 at 10:18

      Amen John

    • September 5, 2020 at 12:21

      “When the government lies, the truth becomes a traitor.” – Jesse Ventura

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      September 6, 2020 at 13:58

      “Are we reaching a time when saying something true is a crime in America?” Go ask Julian Assange.

  28. rick
    September 5, 2020 at 07:13

    I suspect this obscure fringe site has been deliberately targeted for its anonymity to deter and threaten the very radical roots of citizen journalism by denouncing these upstart sites/accounts as proxy agents of Russian Information Operations. This triad of intelligence agencies, corporate media and social media monopolists engenders the resuscitation of McCarthyism in the US and UK to redefine free speech and expression as a privilege of the National Security State and its ruling class of oligarchs.

    • Daniel
      September 6, 2020 at 10:45

      You may well be right. In any event, whatever the truth of this now defunct site (with a tiny audience,) the exposure of it is but another example in a long line of actions taken this election cycle to de-legitimize any narrative that conflicts with the global neo-liberal agenda.

  29. Realist
    September 5, 2020 at 03:58

    But of course, uncensored free speech is a potential threat to democracy, so we’d better shut it down. We’d better titer down the democracy in order to preserve it, eh?

    In math, physics or chemistry it doesn’t matter who writes an equation on the blackboard as long as the equation expresses reality, or, simply put, is true. Apparently, in politics and journalism exactly WHO said a thing can be more important than whatever statement he or she made, which can be expunged and denied to the public even if dead on target. Seekers of truth, as problematic as that concept may be in politics and at the interface of journalism, advertising, advocacy and propaganda, apparently don’t get to decide exactly which ideas they are entitled to know about. Somebody else purports to assume that prerogative. To save free speech and democracy from themselves. Did I get that right?

    • Skip Scott
      September 7, 2020 at 13:19

      Hear, Hear! Why should I care if the Russians decide to speak truth to power? The degree of merit lies in CONTENT. Russians have every right to voice their opinions on the internet, just like everybody else. The Empire fears people being influenced by truth. Sites like CN are a thorn in the side of our so-called “intelligence” agencies and their MSM “mockingbirds” seeking to control the thoughts of the masses with propaganda and “infotainment”.

  30. geeyp
    September 5, 2020 at 00:42

    So, did the MSM print anything about the destruction of PeaceData? Just another example of the NYT and the others looking down their noses at Americans and saying we cannot think for ourselves. After all, we wouldn’t want another potential truth site like Wikileaks now would we? It is in a class by itself.

    • September 5, 2020 at 12:22

      The whole Russiagate nonsense is an insult to Americans, treating us as clueness pawns of Twitter and Facebook. Shameful.

      • Douglas Baker
        September 5, 2020 at 19:51

        Yep.

      • Keith McClary
        September 6, 2020 at 13:00

        Deplorable.

      • rosemerry
        September 6, 2020 at 17:06

        That people can actually take notice of the latest Navalny nonsense and accuse Putin of using the deadly(!) novichok again after the 2018 MSM Skripal saga just to ensure Russian gas does not reach Germany through the Nordstream 2 pipeline is the depth of stupidity heaped onto the public once more.

  31. Brockland A.T.
    September 4, 2020 at 22:57

    There’s a huge push to silence any voices detrimental to a Biden victory. Whatever impetus may come from the Big Brother factions presently sidelined from power, their Little Brothers are burning away at the grassroots.

    Whether PeaaceData is for real or a strawman set up to be bashed is almost trivial. Sorting that out would be useful, but just one of many ‘Resistance’ ploys.

    Any kind of objective centrism, genuine progressivism, and genuine conservatism is unwelcome in the never Trump narrative. If Trump is not maligned, he must at least be seen as an equivalent ‘bad’ to Biden. Or, never-Trumping may be disguised as deranged Trump hating, stumping for improbable third party victory, pretending the only other option isn’t Biden/Harris.

    Hate to sound partisan, but the Democratic platform is not socialism, its totalitarianism. The example their supporters have set with shadow-banning critical voices, outright banning, violence, and simple incapability to debate without canceling opponents is clearly a poor audition for power.

    Snowden, Assange, Manning, and others have highlighted serious issues the United States and the West have to explore, which are only the tip of the iceberg of critical public issues, but that’s not happening to the degree it needs to happen.

    • Realist
      September 5, 2020 at 04:15

      So the FBI calls it a “fake site,” another toxic meddling fraud by the Russians which had to be excised to protect our delicate minds. I suppose I should be scared to know things that Russians know. How do we know the FBI didn’t create the fake, as you said to act as a strawman? The NSA, the CIA, DARPA and the other intelligence agencies seem to be the driving force in developing these new technologies of deception in order to spy and influence everywhere at any time of the day or night. Full spectrum dominance includes YOU, baby cakes!

      • Dave P.
        September 6, 2020 at 14:49

        Realist, you have raised a very good point. With tens of billions of dollars spent by The West to wage Cyber and Disinformation Warfare against Russia (and now China) , their each is far and wide. In a sane World, this money would be better spent in waging War for Peace!

    • DH Fabian
      September 5, 2020 at 09:36

      Biden already lost. Democrats knew this by late 2019, when they began setting the stage to blame-away that expected defeat. We spent the past quarter-century detailing how Democrats split apart their own voting base, and learned that the liberal bourgeoisie simply dismiss anything that contradicts their own notions. After the Mueller investigation, people pointed out that Democrats were sure to bring back their anti-Russian allegations in the weeks ahead of the election (and that NBC/MSNBC would lead this propaganda campaign). And there will be another dangerous surge of anti-Russian propaganda after the election, by the loyalists of the Democrat right wing.

      • jo6pac
        September 5, 2020 at 10:47

        Yep, sadly true. The demodogs and repugs have no real platform to run except more of the same. Russia and China are used as a smoke screen for control of Amerika sheeple.

      • Anne
        September 5, 2020 at 12:53

        Is there owt else, than the Blue Faced right wing? I know that for Americans (the majority, at any rate) even a hint of social democracy equals the “Left” but for an old Leftie (of the big “C” variety) from across the pond, there ain’t any Left in Congress or any other of the so-called political parties called Rep and Dem.

        For me these are simply two faces of the single Janus party, controlling the status quo, enabling the ruling elites – the plutocratic corporate-capitalist-imperialists – and profiting personally thereby. The corruption is staggeringly gi-normous and were it taking place anywhere else, especially in one of those less than amicable, less than willing to bend, countries would be denounced loudly, continuously and sanctioned to death.

        We keep hearing about how “divided” we are…so what? Are we all supposed to nod our heads, lick their spittle, and accept whatever the Janus party decides? 350 million people – not all electorally able, I know – *should* have a vast swathe of political views, be in disagreement, be divided.

        How on earth can I as an OAP widow, born into and dwelling in the working class, trying to live on SS possibly hold the same “political” views as such as bloody Bezos, Pelosi, Shumer, Schiff – all well molly-coddled?? Only here would such a really existing difference be seen as NOT a difference….

      • Realist
        September 5, 2020 at 14:08

        Precisely. How do they expect anyone to respect them when they clearly spent the better part of the primary campaign simply attempting to once again sabotage Bernie Sanders and the one new breath of fresh air in their corrupt party, Tulsi Gabbard. The feeble-minded Biden was simply the last man standing amongst their conniving candidates after the fast shuffle given to Bernie and Tulsi. All the others had withdrawn after making deals because it was clear none of them had enough public support to win. The Dem power brokers cannot possibly expect Biden to i) debate Trump, ii) legitimately win the election, or iii) function within the office of the presidency. He is just a temporary placeholder and will be replaced before the election by Ms. Harris who was roundly rejected by the voters during her short tenure in the primary race. Some say Clinton or Coumo will get plugged into the top spot, but I don’t know of any democratic protocol in place allowing for that. That’s sheer bossism, completely eliminating the voters from any part (real or perceived) in the process.

      • Brockland A.T.
        September 6, 2020 at 19:35

        If Biden has ‘lost’, its only because Harris would be the real President. The polls still favour him, not her; the Harris bump was marginal at best. Being politically correct preaches to partisan morale only.

        Whomever retains the centre will decide the election; Harris coming out in favor of taxing stock market transactions and a national mask mandate will not be additionally helpful. The Forever Wars issue is almost even, with neither Trump or Biden ending them when they had their respective chances, but the excuse of extenuating circumstances favours Trump.

        The Democrats also alienated the Saudi and Israel lobbies, which will probably be more negatively impactful than simply dividing their base. America being secure in West Asia is more critical geopolitically, long-term than securing Globalist (Western European) privilege. Many people somehow get that intuitively, even if coming to that conclusion from different vectors than geopolitics.

        Anti-Russian hysteria isn’t going away, whomever gets in, but making that official policy would be certifying a geopolitical disaster.

    • September 5, 2020 at 12:25

      And don’t forget the rank unconstitutionality of sanctions against and persecution of those who believe in BDS.

      • Brockland A.T.
        September 6, 2020 at 19:52

        Biden deranged syndrome isn’t much of a thing; its rebranded Obama deranged syndrome, itself derived from syndrome zero (Bill) Clinton deranged syndrome.

        Those partisan deranged syndromes so disgraced conservatives back in the 1990’s, and again in the 2010’s, you’d think Democrat strategists would have known better than to foster Deranged Trump Syndrome.

        Partisan deranged syndromes were never cool, at least from a centrist point of view. Adopting a failed propaganda technique, and then after a level of herd immunity had developed, is questionable media strategy.

    • Maricata
      September 5, 2020 at 19:55

      Wise to remember the words of GWB’s brain”

      “People like you are still living in what we call the reality-based community. You believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you are studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors, and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

      Karl Rove

      • Daniel
        September 6, 2020 at 10:50

        That quote still makes my blood boil. But, hey, dancing with Ellen and so forth.

      • Zhu
        September 7, 2020 at 04:16

        People create their own Realities fill the loomy nins and drug rehab clinics.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      September 6, 2020 at 14:03

      The Democratic party never had anything to do with socialism. It is a party of the ruling class, their banks, stock exchange, corporations, and military. As the oldest of the two “official” parties, it began as the party of the Slavocracy of the American South before the Civil War. The sole reason that it somehow got the reputation of being the “party of the little guy” was Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, and the New Deal itself, far from being a forerunner of socialism, was a plot to save capitalism during the Great Depression, a time when socialist revolution was definitely on the cards. The Democrats have not changed. They remain the representatives of the “new slavocracy”, that of the wage slave.

  32. Carolyn L Zaremba
    September 4, 2020 at 20:56

    Good article, Joe.

  33. Jeff Harrison
    September 4, 2020 at 19:52

    Great piece, Joe, and I’m sure that this sort of onslaught of the heavies is worrisome to the likes of CN. It is a dark time for the rebellion as the empire strikes back.

  34. TimN
    September 4, 2020 at 19:23

    Once again, the Security agencies are directly inserting themselves into our faikung democracy. I had to laugh about being “to the left of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.” The vast majority of Americans are by default. The people who think like the chumps who wrote that comically puerile stuff are probably making big money on their anti- democratic jobs. This would include the simpletons at Graphika, which is likely home to some young and easily excitable fledgling spooks.

  35. DW Bartoo
    September 4, 2020 at 19:05

    It must be very clear, by now, to every “alternative” site, whether “news”, “analysis”, or “opinion” is its intent, that “journalism” is “legitimate” only in the narrowest of “forms”.

    Indeed, even comment sections must be scrutinized for “dangerous” or “subversive” content, by the site itself, else the site risks being deemed unworthy of existence.

    Presumably, Russiagate has now been resurrected sufficiently credibly that it is beyond question, beyond doubt and, henceforth shall be the model for all measure of censorship, deplatforming, de-dollarization.

    It might even come to pass that Facebook, that paragon of virtue, good taste, and making “you” the product, shall become far more “selective” regarding which sites they will “host” for comments.

    I used to foolishly imagine that comment sections, at certain sites, were as much an education as the articles which “inspired” the comments.

    Comments are simply a luxury, an add-on, like whitewall tires or a sunroof, a hoi paloi frill and, potentially, merely a further worry for sites that might dare challenge power, might defend Assange, might denigrate the official political parties of the indispensable military empire or otherwise afflict the comfortable.

    All sites which dare question The Narrative, might question foreign policy, or point out war crimes, had best seriously endeavor to do such things with extreme caution, possibly resorting to nebulous, euphemistic “framing” and consider that they must balance their future existence with immoderate, ill-considered suggestions which might ruffle the feathers of precarious apple carts, resulting in rather unpleasant attention (need more be said?).

    Caution, above all.

    Anything more than mild disapproval of the Big Actor’s behavior and political gyrations is to be fully understood as “off limits”.

    Years ago, when there was massive highway construction, the very last “warning sign” was “You Have Been Warned!”

    Was “journalism” in the U$, really attacked, or did its practitioners simply “wise up” and make the “prudent” career move?

    To those sites which still dare continue to act with courage and integrity, my continuing appreciation.

    To those which knuckle under …

    Interesting days ahead.

    Are there still dreams?

    Or, are nightmares dominant?

    Justice is just us.

    Pretty daunting.

    With no guarantee of success.

    Or even of … continued existence.

    Speaking the truth is a crime, and very costly.

    Destroying those who speak the truth is a growth industry, and immensely profitable.

    Whatever the truth of the matter may be about this case, daring to even talk about it is a courageous act.

    As is thinking about it.

    Forget “milk”.

    Got courage?

  36. Alan Ross
    September 4, 2020 at 18:18

    During the Democratic primaries, I repeatedly commented in the online version of the NY Times that Joe Biden could not be elected because of his record and gave six instances of his policies and action that made him unelectable. The NY Times thereafter never again printed any of my comments even if I praised the NYT. Perhaps they felt that the praise must be insincere, even Russian propaganda, because no one in his right mind would ever again praise what has become a gov’t rag.

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