Briefs

Estonia: 28 November—4 December 2016

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Several Russian-language news sites published a fake story on Donald Trump’s first phone call to the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—claiming that when the three Baltic leaders started to talk about Russia’s aggression, Trump got so angry he told them to shut up and ended the call. The false story was actively shared on social media websites throughout Russia and the Baltic states. 

Event: In a 30 November article on President-elect Donald Trump’s phone call with the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the news site vg-news.ru—citing CNN as its source—described Trump’s reaction to the three Baltic leaders’ concern over Russian aggression, claiming he told them to “shut up” and then ended the call. 

The false fact or narrative: The article was invented to promote the narrative that the United States will not stand by the Baltic states when it comes to countering Russian aggression. 

Reality on the ground: The phone call never took place, nor did CNN report on it.

Technique: 
  • False facts.

Audience: Russians as well as Russian-speaking Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians.

Analysis: This is a good example of how fake stories are distributed. Within hours, the article was picked up by dozens of Russian-language websites including universe-tss.su, politros.com, maxpark.com, politforums.net, sakhapress.ru, belvpo.com, rf-smi.ru, 4esnok.by and shared actively on social media sites.