US-based Russian news outlet registers as foreign agent

US Department of Justice. (Shutterstock)
Updated 18 February 2018
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US-based Russian news outlet registers as foreign agent

WASHINGTON: US-based Russian news outlet RIA Global LLC has registered as a foreign agent with the US Justice Department, the fourth Russian-linked media company to do so since November under pressure from the US government.
RIA Global, which produces content for Russian state-owned news outlet Sputnik, registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) on Friday, according to filings on the Justice Department’s website.
FARA, an 80-year old law aimed at making the public aware of the source of foreign propoganda, has taken on new importance in recent months amid probes by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and multiple congressional committees into Russian attempts to disrupt the 2016 US presidential election.
On Friday, Mueller disclosed charges against 13 Russians and three Russian companies with a conspiracy to tamper in the election. Those charged included St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency known for its trolling on social media.
Sputnik had flagged in January that the Justice Department would require RIA Global to register under FARA.
RIA Global said in its registration that it retains “independent editorial control” over the shows, newswires and web articles it produces and that it “respectfully disagrees that FARA should apply.”
The registration revealed an intention to promote to some extent the Kremlin’s view. A contract accompanying RIA’s registration includes a provision that essays focused on or involving Russia “must reflect Russia’s stance on the subject and present opinions of Russian experts.”
RIA Global’s customer of record is Federal State Unitary Enterprise Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, the Russian state entity that owns Sputnik and was created by a decree of Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013.
Reston Translator LLC, a Virgina-based radio broadcaster of Sputnik programming, registered as a foreign agent in November, as did T&R Productions, LLC (T&R), a Washington, D.C.-based firm that produces English-language programming for the RT Network, a TV broadcaster funded by the Russian government.
RTTV America, Inc, which previously produced content for RT, registered under FARA in December.
A January 2017 US intelligence report concluded that Russia conducted an influence campaign of hacking and other measures aimed at swinging the 2016 presidential vote to Donald Trump. The report said Sputnik and RT are part of “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine” that contributed to that campaign.
Putin, upset by the pressure on Russian media companies to register under FARA, has retaliated by signing a law that allows the Russian authorities to designate international media outlets as “foreign agents”.


Facebook takes down more Myanmar accounts over military links

Updated 19 December 2018
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Facebook takes down more Myanmar accounts over military links

  • The social media giant had previously removed accounts, including that of Myanmar’s army chief
  • The shuttered pages included “seemingly independent news, entertainment, beauty and lifestyle Pages were linked to the Myanmar military”

Facebook Inc. has removed hundreds of additional accounts, pages and groups in Myanmar from its social networks after discovering what it called “coordinated inauthentic behavior” and links to the country’s military.
The social media giant had previously removed accounts, including that of Myanmar’s army chief, after criticism it had failed to act on hate speech amid violence against Rohingya Muslims in the country.
Facebook said in a blog post late on Tuesday that it had removed 425 pages, 17 groups and 135 accounts from its social network and 15 accounts from its Instagram photo-sharing service.
It was continuing to investigate other pages that “mislead others about who they are, or what they’re doing” and could breach the company’s policy on misrepresentation, Facebook said.
The shuttered pages included “seemingly independent news, entertainment, beauty and lifestyle Pages were linked to the Myanmar military” and other pages removed in August, Facebook said.
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay did not answer a phone call seeking comment on Wednesday.
The removal of Myanmar-linked pages in August followed a UN fact-finding mission that called for top Myanmar generals to be prosecuted for what it said was a campaign of mass killings and gang rape against the Rohingya carried out with “genocidal intent.”
In 2017 the military led a crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents, pushing more than 730,000 Muslims to neighboring Bangladesh, according to UN agencies.
A Reuters special report in August found that Facebook failed to promptly heed numerous warnings from organizations in Myanmar about social media posts fueling attacks on minority groups such as the Rohingya.
The UN fact-finding mission singled out Facebook for criticism over its failure to address hate speech in Myanmar.
Facebook said in November a human rights report it commissioned showed it had not done enough to prevent its social network from being used to incite violence in Myanmar.