It has been claimed that that the Daily Express has plagiarised 60% of their recent Open Skies Treaty article from RT, a Russian state broadcaster.
This information came to light after an investigation by renowned Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) expert @steffanwatkins in which he compared the article to recent publications by Sputnik and more notably, RT.
Then when we compare RT to @Daily_Express we really get to see what this tool shines at; plagiarism!
A 60% match – that’s 10x higher than the Sputnik baseline; a similar article written about the same topic, not some random other topic. pic.twitter.com/xxAWDLrnwj
— Steffan Watkins (@steffanwatkins) April 27, 2019
The Express article can be found here. The article claims that a Russian aircraft completed a “successful spy mission” after it had “infiltrated US skies”.
The language used in the parts sourced from RT suggest incompetence on the part of US, appearing to suggest the idea that the aircraft had sneakily managed to undertake the mission despite US efforts when in fact, both sides cooperated with the treaty.
This is in line with what Russian studies professor Stephen F. Cohen stated in 2012; “They spend a lot of time on stories that come and go here in the US because they think they reflect badly on us”.
What actually is the Open Skies Treaty?
Signed in 1992, the Open Skies Treaty permits nations to conduct short-notice, unarmed, reconnaissance flights over anothers territories to collect data on military activities.
Members include Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The treaty stipulates that aircraft used to fly the missions must be equipped with sensors that enable the observing party to identify significant military equipment.
The aircraft pictured above is a Tu-214ON, a variant of the Tu-204-200, equipped for Treaty on Open Skies missions.
The aircraft is equipped with one OSDCAM 4060 sensor capable of monitoring the visual spectrum at three different altitudes, and the infrared spectrum at one altitude, more information on the capabilities can be found here.
So, it’s pretty obvious that despite earlier claims that the aircraft had completed a “successful spy mission” after it had “infiltrated US skies”, it was in fact there with US permission and fully monitored at every stage.
Who is RT?
We’re all somewhat familiar with Russian misinformation and every now and then we come across a report from one of the many Russian state broadcasters that have more than remarkable headlines revolving around military equipment but dig a little deeper and you’ll see a pattern appearing to dismiss Western equipment and promote Russian efforts.
Even the UK Defence Journal has been contacted by various Russian based ‘news organisations’ looking for soundbites whenever we publish a story about an MoD blunder or questionable government decision.
The most effective instrument in this effort appears to be Russia Today (now called RT), the organisation has been frequently described as a propaganda outlet for the Russian government and media regulator, Ofcom, has repeatedly found RT to have breached rules on impartiality, and of broadcasting “materially misleading” content.
So blatant is this effort, RT’s editor-in-chief compared the outlet to the Russian Army and Defence Ministry, and talked about it “waging the information war against the entire Western world”. The flood of inaccurate stories is so strong that both NATO and the European Union have established special offices to identify and refute disinformation.
What’s the issue?
So, what does this mean when it comes to the Daily Express piece? Simply put, 60% of their article was written by a writer funded by the Russian government.
Watkins reached out to both the Express and the author of the article on noticing this, I understand neither have responded to him.
Mr @ThomasMackie9, I’ve notice you’ve penned a piece for @daily_express that has some significant factual shortcomings sourced from Sputnik and RT, about the #OpenSkiesTreaty, and I would like to help you with accurate material instead.
Please contact me.https://t.co/XwhE8TByHU
— Steffan Watkins (@steffanwatkins) April 27, 2019
Further, Watkins goes on to explain just how serious this appears to be.
Worse than being plagiarized, the article is full of spin targeting the British public and misinforming them about the #OpenSkiesTreaty that the @DefenceHQ 🇬🇧 doesn’t tell the public much about; the Russians are successfully misinforming the British public, exploiting that void.
— Steffan Watkins (@steffanwatkins) April 28, 2019
Why is this an issue?
When discussing this with Watkins, I was told:
“The seriousness of this should not be downplayed. How many people knew this story was actually penned by the Russians? How many other stories were the same? How do we know this isn’t a Russian intelligence operation done with the cooperation of the journalists or editors?
If we agree that 60% of the article is RT (per comparison with 3rd party tool), we agree that RT doesn’t publish anything against Russian interests, and we know RT is used to push any narrative a Russian intelligence operation might be trying to support, we can stretch to say there is the possibility that anything RT publishes is from the Russian intelligence services, or at least published with the approval of Russian intelligence. Whatever it is they publish, you can be darn sure it has the approval of the Russian government at the very least.
If you’re reading that from a Russian source, you expect it. If you’re reading from a British, Canadian, American, or Dutch source, you don’t. If an American newspaper republished Sputnik or RT without telling their readers, they’d be successfully bypassing any filters and barriers to entry the Russian media would otherwise have been stopped by.
I’ve been quoted in Sputnik myself multiple times, and don’t mind at all, because if you’re reading Sputnik you know they’re going to carry the story the Americans don’t want published, or at least one that offers an alternative to the American position. I’ve also been quoted in the New York Times and other national newspapers in Canada and the United States.
The message is being told by a Brit to the British people, as a British point of view – which in this case is false, 60% of the article was straight from RT, and the other 40% was sensationalist synonyms making the article less true than it started with RT. If that sort of plagiarism happened often, Russian Intelligence Services would figure it out and could leverage it to get a message into the UK media.”
The output of this organisation is now being distributed, presumably unwittingly, by the British press. This is incredibly concerning.