The Russian state-sponsored website Russia Today (RT), the self-proclaimed “first Russian 24/7 English-language news channel which brings the Russian view on global news” provides a fascinating window into what pro-Russian news looks like. Currently boasting headlines like “Putin: US wants to disrupt upcoming Russian election” and “US Congress to spend $4.6 bn for ‘reassuring NATO allies’ as anti-Russia hysteria mounts,” the site spins information (or misinformation), drawing self-described “paleoconservative” InfoWars’ Alex Jones. As it turns, Jones’s far-right fandom may have gone a step too far.
As reported by Buzzfeed News, InfoWars re-published over 1,000 RT articles within the past three years without the Kremlin-backed outlet’s permission. InfoWars’ plagiarism is evidenced by data from Buzzsumo, a social tracking website that monitors content as it is shared online. Although InfoWars included credits in the articles’ bylines, a representative from RT told Buzzfeed that they did not receive permission to perpetuate such content.
In addition to RT, InfoWars reportedly stole articles from CNN, Sputnik, Breitbart News, CNS News, the Blaze, CBC, BBC, Vice, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New York Post, The Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed and others. InfoWars has been cited as a major proliferator of actual “fake news” that helped Russia influence the 2016 election, contributing to an artificial internet culture built upon the foundation of fake profiles and bots impersonating impassioned American Trump supporters.
Attempting to profit off of RT’s Kremlin-approved content paints a darker picture for InfoWars. Twitter recently announced it would ban RT ads, citing a report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released in January, 2016, concluding that under the direct instructions of Vladimir Putin, Russian intelligence embarked on an aggressive campaign to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary [Hillary] Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.” Twitter’s decision also comes in the wake of recent hearings Twitter, Facebook, and Google underwent by the the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate how Russia was able to acquire such an aggressive hand within the flow of information online.
This is not the first time Alex Jones finds himself in hot water. He assisted in, and then apologized for, spreading the “Pizzagate” hoax, in which he falsely accused Democratic officials of taking part in an alleged satanic child pornography ring out of a pizza restaurant in Washington D.C. He also has defended the idea that the September 11th attacks were an inside job by the United States government and blames gun control advocates for the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre.
Jones has yet to respond as to why he plagarizes Putin-approved content on a massive scale. His record suggests he will not take kindly to it—in April, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, became the victim of a homophobic rant Jones launched on-air in reaction to the FBI’s investigation into whether InfoWars had been complicit in spreading Russian propaganda.
“I want to tell Congressman Schiff and all the rest of them, Hey listen asshole … listen you son of a bitch, what the f— is your problem? You want to sit here and say that I’m a goddamn f—ing Russian. You get in my face with that I’ll beat your goddamn ass, you son of a bitch,” Jones berated, beginning a lengthy roast of Schiff and his committee, who had confirmed on an episode of NBC’s Meet The Press that they had found “circumstantial evidence of collusion,” and that there was “direct evidence of deception.”
Without official permission from RT and countless other news outlets, InfoWars may be facing an avalanche of lawsuits. Copyright laws aside, the evidence of re-published articles funded directly by the Kremlin aren’t doing much to help the ongoing FBI investigation into InfoWars and Breitbart News’ Russian collusion. Alex Jones is swimming in content for his next YouTube tirade, but will he choose to comment? So far, the answer is no.
Francesca Friday is New York City-based National Politics contributor for Observer. Follow her on Twitter: @friday_tweets_