Analysis comment

BBC’s new ‘Verify’ hack appears in Mason’s correspondence with intelligence services

Marianna Spring, who has set up fake accounts to ‘investigate’ ‘fake’ news, mocks trolls who question her new department targeting alternative media – but she appears in exposed ‘left’ hack Paul Mason’s emails to security services about targeting alternative media

BBC journalist Marianna Spring has derided those who have challenged or questions her new BBC ‘disinformation’ unit as ‘trolls’ – but has questions to answer about her own background and connections.

Spring’s ‘BBC Verify’ unit was launched with a video of her saying how she has set up fake social media accounts to ‘get at the truth’ and will be targeting, among others, ‘alternative media’ that she claims is ‘at the heart’ of the ‘conspiracy theory movement’:

The swift reaction of observers to point out the issues with her approach saw Masters snarkily hit out at ‘trolls’, whom she accused of ‘misogynistic slurs, threatening and hateful messages’, claiming this was ‘proof of why investigating this is so important’@

However, a look at the responses shows that they seem to be mainly serious, if highly skeptical, questions and challenges to the integrity of her new unit and requests for her to investigate government disinformation and propaganda, which does not seem to be the unit’s intent:

But it turns out that Ms Spring has her own questions to answer, as investigative journalist Max Blumenthal pointed out. Blumenthal was one of the GrayZone journalists who revealed that supposedly ‘left’ hack Paul Mason had engaged in extensive correspondence with the security services about which ‘alternative’ media outlets – many on the left – should be targeted for campaigns to discredit and bankrupt them, including the use of government cut-outs and propaganda outlets and even a now-infamous chart supposedly showing how they all connect. Mason never denied the authenticity of the emails, instead bizarrely claiming that they ‘may’ have been fake.

And Ms Masters was a frequent feature of those emails:

So far Ms Spring, who maintains a busy Twitter account and has shared a number of tweets from supporters condemning the supposed trolling of her new unit, does not seem to have replied to the Blumenthal’s question or commented on her appearance in Mason’s correspondence.

The dangers of potential state action under the cover of countering disinformation were summed up in an incisive tweet by one respondent.

Similar propaganda has already been extensively used, including in the UK, targeting left media – including, more than once, Skwawkbox – but adding right-wing extremists to the mix in an attempt to disguise it and to smear the left by association.

Blumenthal and others who exposed false state narratives were also smeared by the BBC in a podcast series that appears to be peppered with propaganda and misdirection. Questions have been raised about the apparent ties of the series’ author and presenter to UK intelligence services.

Update: the BBC continues to repeat Cardiff Police’s claims (mentioned above) that two young men whose death triggered riots last night in south Wales were not being pursued by police at the time of their death – despite CCTV footage showing a police van pursuing their bike. If Ms Spring wants to investigate real disinformation, she should start with her own employers situated in the same London building as her team:

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