Myth Detector adds Russian language to its long list of language directories

Myth Detector, a fact-checking project of the Georgian Media Development Foundation – or MDF – recently launched a Russian-language website to counter misinformation and disinformation related to the Russian-Ukrainian war.

The site already offers dozens of fact checks, tackling questions such as whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy actually met the Turkish delegation in Lviv and whose caricature – that of Vladimir Putin or Zelenskyy – appears on a billboard in Odessa.

So far, Myth Detector has published in four languages, including Georgian, Azerbaijani, Armenian and Russian, although it now mainly publishes in English and Russian to reach the widest audience.

“We are reaching the Russian population now because according to our latest data, 20% of our readers are now Russian,” said Tamar Kintsurashvili, executive director of MDF and editor-in-chief of Myth Detector. However, these numbers are subject to change from day to day, Kintusrashvili said.

“We have added journalists experienced in Russian-language reporting.”

Myth Detector focuses on three areas of fake news: foreign influence operations, internal political propaganda, and fake news spread for economic gain (or clickbait sites for ad revenue).

A Myth Detector fact check assesses a video of Zelenskyy detailing his alleged drug use, when in fact the footage is taken from clips of the Ukrainian president talking about sports and his love of coffee.

In the original clip, when asked about his high energy level, Zelenskyy says, “I get up at 7 a.m., walk the dog, play sports. What is sports? You have to go to the essentials to force yourself. And this energy remains for the rest of the day.

In the edited clip, the word “sports” is replaced with “drugs”.

“We are seeing some misinformation accounts being spread in a coordinated way through Facebook pages linked to the Russian diaspora abroad,” Kinturashvili said. “So they are not just disseminators of false information, but they are engaged in the protest against Ukrainian refugees.”

Another MDF fact check involves a widely circulated graphic, which claims that Poland is planning to invade and annex Ukraine to share it with Russia, Hungary and Romania. The story includes a map of Ukraine with the borders redrawn to show Ukraine divided between countries. While the map originally came from a 2014 proposal to redistribute Ukraine, the source of the map was Vladimir Zhirinovsky, an incendiary politician and Russian nationalist who is not affiliated with the Polish government.

MDF is growing, with nearly 10,000 Facebook followers, and Russian fact checks will likely continue to boost its numbers.

“We also have readers from the United States because of the English site,” Kinturashvili said. “So after our Russian addition, we will analyze the data again, as we reach new audiences.”

Sylvester L. Goldfarb