Facebook has blocked one of the major Russian propaganda projects, "In The Now," affiliated with Russia Today TV channel.
"We had a subsidiary project in English, In The Now. The project was wildly successful – 2.5 billion views and 4 million subscribers only on Facebook. CNN, on a tip from a fund funded by the State Department and NATO, made material that this project was funded from Russia. And they asked Facebook, how can it be – Russian interference all of this? Facebook immediately blocked us!" Editor-in-Chief of the Russia Today television channel Margarita Simonyan wrote on Twitter.
According to her, the social network has not filed any complaints.
In the Now, which started as a talk show on RT with an American host (RT uses international hosts to keep its ties to Russia out of plain view), provides a youthful appeal, different from the more formal attitudes in RT’s news reporting, and communicates via Facebook and Youtube, according to EUvsDisinfo, a European watchdog tasked with fighting disinformation.
“In The Now” steps further away from identification with the Kremlin by adding videos with high emotional and entertainment value to the output. This becomes bait to attract audiences which would otherwise not be attracted by highly political stories (RT has a track record of mainly attracting politically interested, but marginally far-right or far-left audiences) and acts as camouflage to keep the output’s ties to Russia’s government at least two or three clicks away.
In The Now presents a cocktail mixing highly political stories with absolutely apolitical entertainment and emotional clickbait.
In sum, both RT and In the Now share similar biases in their reporting, namely, anti-“Western”, anti-NATO, anti-U.S., anti-Soros, anti-Clinton, and pro-Kremlin. In the NOW’s reporting, however, is calibrated based on youngers demographic and platforms and thus serves as an introduction to Russia’s disinformation narratives, according to Donara Barojan, a Digital Forensic Research Associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.
The platform’s existence points to Kremlin’s long-term strategy likely aimed at grooming English-speaking millennials to embrace Russia’s worldview through ideological content layered into engaging or viral content.