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Canadian researchers discover fake news network that infiltrated mainstream media

By Tom Porter

Researchers say they have uncovered a vast fake news network impersonating genuine news organizations and using fake social media profiles to spread disinformation.

The Canadian Citizen Lab research group, which is part of the University of Toronto, in a report published last week claimed that Iran is behind the program, which it dubbed Endless Mayfly.

The researchers say it “spreads falsehoods and amplifies narratives critical of Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Israel.”

In a statement to the Associated Press, Iran denied being behind the network.

The authors published “divisive content” on copycat news websites, often with names that imitated legitimate news websites, such as “Bloomberq,” or the “The Indepnedent,” the researchers said.

The technique is known as “typosquatting,” in which a website impersonating another is created under a slight variant of its name.

The trolls created 72 lookalike domains, and 153 fake news articles, with one fake article designed to look like a Bloomberg report suggesting that the CIA would award Saudi Arabia’s crown prince with a “medal of honor.”

Citizen Lab said that a the people behind the posts also made fake social media profiles to spread the posts, some of which went as far as sending messages to journalists and activists whom they hoped would repost the material, lending it legitimacy.

Fake articles contained made-up quotations from a US senator alleging Saudi complicity in terrorism. Articles also claimed that Saudi Arabia was funding Trump’s wall on the US-Mexican border and tried to stir tension among Arab Gulf states.

In one case, Washington-based terrorism expert Ali Al-Ahmed received a direct message on Twitter from Mona A Rahman, who appeared to be a young female activist and critic of Saudi Arabia.

She tried to lure him to share a fake news article about Israel, posted on a website purporting to be linked to Harvard University.

Al-Ahmed said he had previously been targeted by hackers posing as female journalists.

“They will never stop,” Al-Ahmed told the Associated Press. “They think a hot girl can lure me.”

Once an article was pushed out by fake social media profiles and received a certain degree of “amplification” by being retweeted and shared online, the link to the fake website was deleted, Citizen Lab said. It would then be replaced by a link to the legitimate site of the website imitated.

The report found that the disinformation has close links to a republishing network found by previous investigations to be an “Iranian government-backed disinformation operation.”

The Iranian embassy in London told the Associated Press it had nothing to do with the disinformation campaign. It said instead that it was “the biggest victim” of disinformation campaigns, and backed international regulation to curb them.

In recent years, other adversaries of the US have sought to imitate Russia’s operation in the 2016 presidential election and spread fake news and propaganda on social media.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates in January named Iran as one of three foreign powers, alongside Russia and China, which would probably seek to subvert the 2020 presidential election.

In October, Facebook closed down a network of 82 accounts, pages and groups originating in Iran which sought to spread divisive fake news and propaganda ahead of November’s mid-term congressional elections.

According to the Citizen Lab report, many of the accounts removed by Facebook were linked to the Endless Mayfly network.

Credit: Business Insider,

3 thoughts on “Canadian researchers discover fake news network that infiltrated mainstream media

  1. This is worth examining!!!!

    I have never heard or read of this since it came out. But news about bs is nothing new. There is not much law against it in the USA and won’t be until the GOP is confident they can win a presidency without its help.

    There is also the very potent fact that fake news and conspiracy is more profitable to report than the truth. The truth is often boring and cannot be relied upon to provide sufficient copy to sell ads..(which is probably why the anglo-world spends 24/7 fixed on a fat guy with a remote in one hand and a Big Mac in the other spending his days watching TV and tweeting when he is upset, a chronic condition).

    But more importantly for us, the article shows the current template for American media. The headline is inappropriate, (and mispelt as it was simply a cut and pasted by our friendse. The original, from the U of T, speaks of a “reasonable confidence level” indicating uncertainty. And there is NO surprise that. Russia, Iran and others have been waging a ware against ALL democracies for years…, most strikingly in the USA where it is unchecked for the reasons mentioned. Additionally, the Business Insider is a American publication owned by a massive Murdoch-like media conglomerate, Axel Springer, out of Germany with a huge global stable. The publisher they chose for Insider, Henry Blogged, was once a stock analyst for the CIBC one of the big Canadian banks (they are all big). He was fired and banned for life from ALL security markets for fraud and convicted in a civil case against him. He bears no love for Canada. And you have to ask yourself what type of employer would hire him for a “news” service. This is the CHL source.

    All of this can be discover, as I did, with a google search or two in minutes. So why on earth would anyone present it as it is here? The World Wonders.

    I am now taking the precaution of copying my posts. If they are banned as they have been in the past, I shall post them to a little google forum.

  2. This article, as others before, provide zero evidence. “Researchers say they have uncovered a vast fake news network.. ” Where’s the evidence ?? A screen shot, a shoestring, anything ?

    Same thing with “Russian Collusion”, no evidence. Anyone here have something other than conjecture ?

    1. QED Don, Evidence is unnecessary with this type of media apporach. One merely posts what one thinks the chosen audience wants to believe. Its fascinating because in doing so, we can only ascertain what the poster/monitor thinks of us..or if more honest, what they think of the world and the worldview they think we should have. Reality is secondary.

      Another post of mine was refused. But it was so innocuous I suspect a mistake somewhere. I merely told Proudamerican that Columbia produces petroleum. Excess is shipped to the USA for refining.

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