Exposure Fails to Dent Success of YourNewsWire in Spreading Fake News

From Media Matters:

YourNewsWire published an article on October 29 titled “Morgan Freeman: ‘Jailing Hillary’ Best Way To ‘Restore Public Faith In Govt,'” which claimed that Freeman said “that bitch” Clinton “should be in jail for her unlawful deeds and President Trump should absolutely, absolutely make sure this happens.” 

…According to social media analytics website BuzzSumo, the fake story received more than 68,000 Facebook engagements and more than 10,000 Twitter shares. Prominent figures shared the fake story, including actor James Woods (who later deleted his tweet), PJ Media columnist Roger Kimball, and conservative blogger Instapundit (who subsequently acknowledged the story was fake), as well as multiple other fake news websites.

The YourNewsWire post is attributed to “Baxter Dmitry”, and given that the site is by now well known as a purveyor of falsehoods it is remarkable that it is still managing to pull these hoaxes off. I previously looked at a specific fake story it ran in July.

The site and its founder, Sean Adl-Tabatabai, were profiled by the London Sunday Times back in January under the headline “Mother Churns Out Stories for Master of Fake News”; the article is paywalled, although a derivative piece at The Drum covers the same ground. The London Evening Standard followed up in February, with an article that highlighted Adl-Tabatabai’s former links to David Icke:

it was a meeting with David Icke — the former BBC presenter who announced that he was the son of God on Wogan in 1990 — that he describes as “the biggest step” to what he does now.

Adl-Tabatabi was working on a pilot for a conspiracy theory show on MTV and had been tasked with duping Icke into making a fool of himself again. “He was actually a really decent guy with a few wacky ideas — and I thought, no, he doesn’t deserve this.” He tipped off Icke — who was grateful. When he was sacked from MTV, he worked for Icke for years as a web designer and producer. Icke has since turned on his amanuensis (“WHY ARE YOU FILLED WITH SUCH HATRED SEAN ADL-TABATABAI? What is your motivation? And who benefits?”) But Adl-Tabatabai remains respectful. “He’s just misinformed. That’s fine. What I liked about him was that he was fearless.”

The same article describes “Baxter Dmitry” as (link added) “a Milo Yiannopoulos fanboy whose Facebook profile is taken in front of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg”; however, the earlier Times article notes that the author’s previous profile photo was formerly stolen from a Latvian computer programmer. It remains unclear if he really exists.

Adl-Tabatabai’s “respectful” attitude to Icke is not particularly in evidence on YourNewsWire, which in one post accuses Icke of “associating” with individuals “closely connected to child abuse” – these are “Zen Gardner”, a  conspiracy theorist now viewed with suspicion because he was formerly a member of the Children of God; and Jimmy Savile, on the grounds that Icke and Savile both worked for the BBC. This is what prompted Icke’s “WHY ARE YOU FILLED WITH SUCH HATRED” outburst. Icke, with remarkable lack of self-awareness, was apparently aggrieved to be on the receiving end of a lurid and sensationalising hit-piece.

It seems that the bad blood relates to a UK online media project called The People’s Voice, in which Icke and Adl-Tabatabai were partners in 2013 and 2014, when Icke split from it. Other presenters included Richie Allen, who now runs an audio conspiracy podcast that is produced “in association with David Icke”, and Sonia Poulton, who left after arguing with Icke and Adl-Tabatabai about finances (incidentally, Poulton is the journalist referred to in this post). The project closed soon after Icke’s departure, although the name lives on as “The People’s Voice Inc” in California. Along with YourNewsWire, Adl-Tabatabai also runs a similar site called News Punch.

A number of media sources state that that the site has been described as a “proxy” for Russia by the European Union’s East StratCom Task Force, which exists to counter Russian propaganda. However, this appears to me to have been overstated. Several YourNewsWire stories feature on the Task Force’s Eu vs DisInfo website, with YourNewsWire named as the “Disinforming outlet”, but the main Task Force website states that “the Task Force does not compile any lists of persons involved in disinformation activities.” It seems that the Task Force does not research or analyse disinformation sources, but merely collects “disinformation stories that have been reported to the Task Force by its network.”

Despite this background and YourNewsWire‘s many obvious excesses, a more recent profile in The Hollywood Reporter has described it as

emerging alongside the more high-profile Breitbart as an integral player in the Trump era’s L.A. alt-media axis. Despite Google’s decision to cut off YNW’s ad revenue and fact-checking site Snopes’ relentless efforts to debunk its incendiary reports, its founders are more energized than ever, as [Adl-Tabatabai’s partner Sinclair] Treadway puts it, “to focus on what people aren’t focusing on — the information that the public isn’t already being told.”

(H/T Real Troll Exposure for some links)

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