As ”little green men” invaded Crimea in the spring of 2014, while Russian media went into overdrive, smearing Ukraine`s Euro-Revolution as a ”fascist coup d`etat,” a group of Ukrainian professors and students struck back launching StopFake.org, the first site to directly tackle and refute Russian propaganda, according to Politico.
Now that the rest of the world has woken up to the Kremlin`s disinformation tactics, the journalism school crew behind StopFake have emerged as the ”grand wizards” of the fake-news-busting world, Politico reports.
”There was a growing avalanche of propaganda from Russia seeking to reframe the narrative in the Kremlin`s favor, and we urgently needed to counterbalance that,” says Yevhen Fedchenko, the dean of Kiev Mohyla University`s journalism faculty and one of the founders of StopFake.
The site quickly gained a cult following by exposing false facts in anti-Ukraine Russian news reports. An aggrieved mother whose child was reportedly ”crucified” by Ukrainian troops was ”outed” as a popular Russian television actress in an article that was shared 11,000 times and later referenced in a press conference with Putin.
But it was only after last year`s presidential election in the U.S. — when Russian fake news and cyberattacks were blamed for swaying the election in Donald Trump`s favor — that the site burst on to the global stage.
Fedchenko and his colleagues were plied with offers of consulting work by nervous European governments. They now organize media workshops across the Continent, offering guidelines on recognizing and debunking Russian propaganda.
As the West scrambles to get a handle on the Kremlin`s propaganda tactics, Ukraine for once finds itself in a privileged position. Ukrainians lived through the Soviet Union, speak fluent Russian and can sift through Russian-language sites for clues about the inner workings of the Kremlin`s fakes news operations. They know the sites pumping out Kremlin disinformation and might even have met some of their editors in the past.
The site receives additional funding from various sources, including the Czech Republic`s foreign ministry and the British embassy in Ukraine. It has since expanded its focus and now publishes in 11 languages, including Czech, Italian, Romanian and German. With more money flowing into the operation, the founders have now hired journalists across Europe and expanded their global staff to 30 people.