Weaponizing info about MH17

September 13,  2018

Analyzing tweets about MH17 has been the latest tool used to ‘prove’ foul play by Russia when it comes to injecting false information about the downing of the Malaysian Boeing in the Western public domain. 

A study by Robert van der Noordaa and Coen van de Ven published in Dutch weekly De Groene claims:
“Never before so many Russian troll tweets were flushed out in the open and Groene Amsterdammer analyzed nearly three million tweets from a troll factory in St. Petersburg”, and, “the disaster with MH17 is an important theme for Russian trolls.”

The article in De Groene “How Russian trolls respond to Western fears“ has been dissected by me in Dutch journos trolling Russia.

Another study, published just a few days later by a Chatham House website, completely contradicts the claim made by Robert van der Noordaa and Coen van de Ven.

The Authors Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Professor in the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen and director of Digital Disinformation and Yevgeniy Golovchenko, Ph.D. fellow at the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen, write in “State, media and civil society in the information warfare over Ukraine: citizen curators of digital disinformation”:
“In 2017 Twitter provided the US Congress with a list of 2,752 human-controlled Twitter profiles linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), popularly known as the ‘Russian Troll Farm’. Interestingly, none of these trolls appeared in the k-10 core. Although it is impossible to determine with complete certainty, we found no indication that any of the citizen profiles in our sample were managed by the IRA.”

My comment: hopefully authors of both studies soon debate the stark contradicting conclusions among each other in public, as honest investigators are always prepared to do.

The study published by Chatham house identifies me as 14th most influential.

Elliot Higgins and his Bellingcat being number one and two did not surprise me at all, but a simple blogger like me being number fourteen surely did. Reason enough to take a closer look at the study. Figure below provides an overview of the top 50 profiles with the highest in-degree scores:

The study is based on following presumptions:

“This article accepts the JIT’s findings as reliable and accurate.”
Page 5 (PDF version)
“Social media posts that question the JIT findings (that the plane was shot down from territory controlled by Russian separatists using Russian weapons) are seen as examples of pro-Russian disinformation.”

To understand the consequences of these statements, let me explain using similar presumptions regarding another subject: the centuries old debate between atheists and religious people. A study about arguments used in this debate makes following presumptions:

“This study accepts the existence of an anthropomorphic God as a fact,” and, “Debaters questioning this God are seen as disseminators of blasphemous disinformation.”

On the right hand side we identify infidels Richard Dawkins, author of ‘the god delusion’, Stephen Hawkins and Albert Einstein as purveyors of blasphemous disinformation.
On the left hand side truthfuls Pope Francis, Mike Pence and Osama Bin Laden as individuals trying to counter disinformation.

Atheists most probably will not agree with this type of science and hopefully believers now understand the major flaw of the study and the ‘study’ as well:

By attributing a biased definition of what is considered to be a fact, the value judgement based on the studied data about what is “disinformation” and what is “counter disinformation” has nothing to do with the truth, but simply reflects the preoccupied opinions of the researchers.

Figure 1 in the study (red ovals added by me):

No surprise then the study identifies Euromaiden PR as reliable publisher of counter-disinformation and Dutch Member of parliament Pieter Omtzigt as purveyor of disinformation. Number one MH17 influencer and Bellingcat founder Elliot Higgins must be right then if he frames the Dutch MP as useful idiot (for Moscow of course):

Pieter Omtzigt has been appointed by the Council of Europe as special rapporteur on murder case of journalist in Malta named Caruana Galizia.
Bellingcat member Aric Toler is listed as 23rd most important MH17 influencer and identified as member of the counter-disinformation camp. This is what Aric Toler had to say about the Malta murder case:

I personally experience ‘counter disinformation’ from the number one MH17 influencer and his digital posse on a regular basis. After I exposed fake news by Eliot Higgins, from behind a coward’s block he tweets: “I don’t deal with idiots like Max who still think MH17 was a false flag.” Another blatant lie, because I never claimed such a scenario happened. Dodging my call for a debate fits the character, just as tweeting to Russian diplomats to get ready to suck his big Bellingcat balls, then deleting the tweet. A true scientifically proven beacon of independent Western truthfulness indeed. [CHECK]

What to think of the country that was hit by two aviation dramas losing Malaysia Airlines MH370 and shortly after MH17? Listen to what incumbent Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad had to say about the official JIT investigation in 2015. What about transport minister Anthony Loke who recently said: “No conclusive evidence Russia behind MH17 downing”?

Is it fair to label a JIT-member and country that was hit so hard as purveyor of MH17 disinformation?

Finally I want to mention and comment two issues professor Rebecca Adler-Nissen and Yevgeniy Golovchenko stated on page 18 (PDF version) of their study.

1- “Historically, intelligence services and propaganda institutions have posed as ordinary citizens to assume a credibility that they lack in their own roles.”

My comment: let that really sink in and reconsider everything you digested as reliable info. Do not trust any source. Filter arguments, think, decide for yourselves what information is (not) credible.

2- “Why do citizens curate information in ways that amplify or counter pro-Kremlin disinformation?”

My answer: the researchers did not bother to ask me.
– Based on ample study I do not trust the official MH17 narrative.
– Ample study included two trips to the crash site and dissection of forensics presented by the Joint Investigation Team.
– My political judgement NATO+ does not have any moral high ground towards Russia. On the contrary, it is NATO+ waging a hybrid war against Russia and weaponizing information.