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Fake news machine

Quoting anonymous sources by The Washington Post and The New York Times is on the rise

Fake news machine

Over the last 8 years, the leading daily American newspapers The Washington Post and The New York Times have significantly (by an order of magnitude) increased the number of quotations from anonymous sources in materials published. This is borne out by a study conducted with the Google search engine on the newspapers' websites for the period of January 01st, 2011 through December 31th, 2018.

The large-scale use of anonymous sources of information triggered off a wave of fake news on the American media scene.

The calculation was carried out by keywords like "unnamed source(s)", "unidentified source(s)", "anonymous source(s)".

A total of 1 303 articles have been found and analyzed.

As shown in Fig. 1 presenting the process's dynamics, the paradigm shift of editorial policy as regards the active involvement of undercover informants to obtain significant and sometimes sensational information changed in 2013, even though the real turning point took place in 2015.

In 2018, the explosive growth in the number of materials referring to unnamed sources slowed down. It is reasonable to suppose that the American media system's transition from one state to another is basically over, as testified, among other things, by the diagram's typical form compliant with the classical S-shaped logistic growth curve (the so-called isoquants)


Fig. 1. Annual average number of quotations by anonymous sources in leading American newspapers The Washington Post and the New York Times (total)

Fig. 2 presents the process under study as per each particular newspaper. As you can see, acting as a leader and a certain initiator here is the anti-Trump newspaper, The Washington Post. And The New York Times, being a global and more enhanced information asset, initiated such trends only in 2016.


Fig. 2. Annual number of quotations by anonymous sources in the American newspapers The Washington Post and The New York Times

It appears that responsible for the described process was an acute internal conflict which developed during the presidential election campaign and continued during Donald Trump's first two years in office. This instigated a leak of compromising information, the nature of which was disguised by anonymity. This kind of information was used by the warring groups to spread propaganda among domestic audiences. Virtually, the results obtained speak volumes for an unprecedented information and psychological operation in the United States.

Most articles are dedicated to the internal policy of the United States, like, however, most of the two newspapers' materials. It should be also noted that the headlines more frequently use the name of current US President Donald Trump (309 times) as compared with former head of state Barack Obama (17 times), given that the analyzed time period covers presidential terms of both the former and the latter. Thus, Obama's work was decorated with only 3-4 articles with links to anonymous sources per year, while for Trump's activities this figure stands at about 30.

The number of articles about Russia and its affairs accounts for 75. Most of them are somehow connected with the quest for the "Russian trace" among Trump's minions and have nothing to do with Russia. In other cases, the mentioned newspapers reprint Russian media reports (typically TASS, Regnum, daily Kommersant newspaper and unnamed news agencies) with a reference to Russia's "internal" anonymous sources. All similar cases that were disclosed directly by the Russian Foreign Ministry, have been noted.

The widespread use of references to unnamed sources which are often used as a smear for ordinary propaganda fakes, entailed a number of consequences like decreased level of trust in the American media and even allegations of the arriving "post-truth era" in the United States.

(the editorial team has the list of publications as regards the selected subset)

The Center for Special Mediametric Studies (media group) was created by information and analytical support specialists.

Scope and purposes of the Center comprise a comprehensive analysis of foreign media resources to detect information threats to the Russian Federation, as well as the deployment of information and psychological campaigns against the nation and its leadership. This is accompanied by a special emphasis on new methods of information filtering, such as analyzing media statistics with the formation of time series, content analysis when obtaining data of the global media monitoring (over 60 countries), analyzing data definitions and working within the field of data journalism. One of the key elements of the Center's manner to present analytical findings is information mapping. The media group is armed with highly experienced independent experts.


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