BBC fights ‘fake news’ with fake Twitter accounts — RT World News
The UK’s state-funded broadcaster runs multiple ‘sockpuppet’ accounts representing different political views
A journalist from British broadcaster BBC Verify’s new fact-checking spin-off has admitted to deploying several fake Twitter accounts to fight “disinformation.”
In a segment aired on Saturday, the BBC “disinformation correspondent” Marianna Spring warned the public that “False facts can cause very serious damage to societies and to the people who compose them.” She then revealed that she had set up several “secret accounts” on Twitter for the BBC’s Americast show, each representing different political views in order to better “to interrogate” the views of the network’s target audience.
Although the deception was described as an attempt to “understanding online polarization” looking at a cross-section of the type of content that social media platforms recommend to different demographics, the three “characters” were white women. Emma, a 25-year-old atheist graphic designer with a “housing partner” based in New York, hails from “progressive left”. Britney, a recently divorced 50-year-old mother of three living in Houston, is from the “populist right” and works as a school secretary. Gabriela, 44, a married mother of three who moonlights as a nanny, is chosen to “Stressed sideliner.
Graphics surrounding the fake profiles suggested a presence on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, although the network refrained from revealing the usernames of its puppets. Twitter explicitly forbidden use the platform to “artificially amplify or suppress information or engage in behavior that manipulates or disrupts people’s experience or the platform’s defenses against manipulation”, and most other social media platforms have similar policies.
According to the BBC, its Verify division consists of a team of 60 “Forensic Journalists and Expert Talent” within the network, in charge of “fact-checking, video-verifying, fighting misinformation, analyzing data, and – most importantly – explaining complex stories in the pursuit of truth.”
The BBC was shot in the arm with £20 million ($24.13 million) from the UK government earlier this year, specifically for “countering misinformation” with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly hailing the network as “the world’s most trusted international broadcaster.”
However, critics have called out the BBC for airing what they claim are heavily biased and outright fabricated stories, particularly regarding the conflict in Ukraine, even as the network continues to portray “disinformation” as the exclusive province of Russian media.
The network has nurtured the careers of “Russian bot” hunters like Atlantic Council alumnus Ben Nimmo, who has made a living rebranding genuine political dissent as “coordinated inauthentic behavior”, and see its practitioners declassified as agents of the state. The BBC has also hosted government-controlled journalists tasked with waging an information war against Russia, while its “charitable” arms, BBC Media Action, engaged in covert operations aimed at “weaken the influence of the Russian state” in the Balkan.
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