May 24, 2019

Report: “‘Typosquatting’ Campaign Imitated News Outlets to Spread Propaganda For Years”

From CyberScoop:

Researchers have uncovered a years-long disinformation campaign in which suspected Iranian operatives masqueraded as well known international media outlets and used fake Twitter accounts to amplify fabricated news articles.

The group, dubbed Endless Mayfly, published some 135 news articles on sites meant to look like Bloomberg, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Politico and others, according to findings published Tuesday by Citizen Lab, the team of researchers at the University of Toronto.

The group impersonated outlets via a technique known as “typosquatting,” in which it used websites like “theatlatnic.com” instead of “theatlantic.com” to avoid detection. Endless Mayfly would use this method to push anti-Saudi narratives and other fabrications that would be picked up on social media and legitimate news outlets, Citizen Lab said. It also involved the use of 11 Twitter personas since 2016.

Direct to Complete CyberScoop Article

Direct to Full Text Report: Burned After Reading: Endless Mayfly’s Ephemeral Disinformation Campaign (via Citizen Lab)

Key Findings

  • Endless Mayfly is an Iran-aligned network of inauthentic personas and social media accounts that spreads falsehoods and amplifies narratives critical of Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Israel.
  • Endless Mayfly publishes divisive content on websites that impersonate legitimate media outlets. Inauthentic personas are then used to amplify the content into social media conversations. In some cases, these personas also privately and publicly engage journalists, political dissidents, and activists.
  • Once Endless Mayfly content achieves social media traction, it is deleted and the links are redirected to the domain being impersonated. This technique creates an appearance of legitimacy, while obscuring the origin of the false narrative. We call this technique “ephemeral disinformation”.
  • Our investigation identifies cases where Endless Mayfly content led to incorrect media reporting and caused confusion among journalists, and accusations of intentional wrongdoing. Even in cases where stories were later debunked, confusion remained about the intentions and origins behind the stories.
  • Despite extensive exposure of Endless Mayfly’s activity by established news outlets and research organizations, the network is still active, albeit with some shifts in tactics.

Direct to Full Text Report (via Citizen Lab)

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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