Russian TV Channel Blames Internet For Suckering It Into Running A Fake Photo Of A Ukrainian Jet Shooting Down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17

from the unfortunately,-'society'-had-previously-been-named-in-several-other-down dept

Chasing eyeballs but catching internet infamy. That's Russia's Channel One, which took an unsourced photograph from an online forum and turned it into a complete embarassment.
Friday, Russia’s Channel 1 featured a photo they claimed proved a Ukrainian jet fighter shot down Malaysia Airlines flight 17 in July, only to have it disproved hours later as an obvious fake, according to Buzzfeed...

The state-run television channel presented the image, claiming it been taken moments before the passenger jet crashed in eastern Ukraine, to bolster Moscow’s contention that the passenger plane was brought down by a Ukrainian Su-27 fighter jet, killing all 298 people on board.

Because it agreed with the Russian narrative, no one at Channel One bothered looking into the validity of the photo. The (supposed) engineer presenting the "evidence" claimed the "sensational photo" came from an American MIT graduate. This lent the photo a bit of short-lived credibility, but what the engineer said about the photo's origin wasn't strictly true.
George Bilt—who said he is an MIT graduate and aviation expert with 26 years experience, but would not provide further biographical details—said that he had come across an earlier report by the Russian Union of Engineers (RUE) blaming a Ukrainian fighter jet for the crash, and thought that it concurred with his own amateur findings. When he saw the picture online, Bilt wrote to Andreyevsky, the “expert” from the broadcast, with a link to the forum where the image was posted, clearly stating that he had found it there.
The photo's legitimacy was soon decimated by a number of internet sleuths.
Hours after the picture was shown, Russian and international bloggers called the image a fake, noting the logo for Malaysia Airlines was misplaced on the plane and the clouds in the picture were identical to those found in a Google Earth image from 2012. Bloggers later noted that fighter jet in the picture appeared to be a Russian MiG-29 and not an Su-27, and the the picture of the airliner looked like it had been lifted from Google Images, when requesting ‘Boeing view from above.’
As was the pedigree of the "engineer" who presented the photo as fact:
The Russian Union of Engineers turned out not to add up either. Ivan Andreyevsky, the “expert” quoted in the show, does not appear to have an engineering education. A quick analysis of his PhD turned up obvious signs of plagiarism.
But the fun didn't really begin until the head of the Russian Union of Engineers (Vladimir Saulyanov) defended the presentation of the fake photo as fact with a statement simultaneously sublimely ridiculous and the truest words ever spoken.
“How could we check it?” Saulyanov said. “It came to us from the internet.”
With any luck, Saulyanov's Excuse will become the go-to defense when anything is erroneously published anywhere from this moment on.

And with that, the internet switched gears, crafting their own versions of Bilt's Photo (which, in his defense, was never presented as a factual depiction).

One speculated that a Nazi flying saucer was involved.


Another, crafted by Sophisticated Jane Doe of Fight Copyright Trolls, offered this equally-plausible scenario.


As for Bilt, who is now somewhat of a lightning rod for anti-Russian sentiment, he has given a long statement to Buzzfeed concerning his involvement in this debacle.
Bilt said that he was shocked to see his email, which he thought that he had written to Andreyevsky in confidence, used on Russian TV as proof of the Kremlin’s claims, citing him as a source. “I am quite unhappy that my bona fide informal attempt possibly became a source of yet another battle in a media war,” he said. “This was definitely not my intention. I am also not looking for a cheap fame. This tragedy is simply too awful to gain from it."
The final sentence of his statement is at least as incisive as Saulyanov's Excuse. However, Bilt's statement carries with it the gravitas of being deliberate rather than inadvertent. When a media outlet becomes a mouthpiece for state narratives, it is everything Bilt says succinctly about Channel One's actions.
“Those folks are either desperate or totally unprofessional,” he said.
I'd put some money on both.

Filed Under: channel 1, fact checking, george bilt, internet, journalism, russia, sourcing, ukraine


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 18 Nov 2014 @ 8:14am

    This is actually a spiky subject for Russia. (See actual picture of the aircraft in the link, courtesy of Google)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Just Another Anonymous Troll, 18 Nov 2014 @ 9:36am

    "Not everything on the Internet is true."
    -Abraham Lincoln

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2014 @ 9:53am

    Fake Photos?

    "When a media outlet becomes a mouthpiece for state narratives..."

    Seems like that goes for CNN, ABC, CBS, etc. as well. After all, our narrative regarding all things having to do with the situation in Ukraine seems to conform with our government's official version of the story also. It seems that on more than one occasion our news sources have shown fake photos showing all sorts of interesting stuff going on in Ukraine since our government instigated the crisis beginning more or less a year ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 18 Nov 2014 @ 10:04am

      Re: Fake Photos?

      How about other news sources like BBC, Der Spiegel or CBC?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2014 @ 5:38pm

        Re: Re: Fake Photos?

        Niet.

        They are underlings to american puppet states and the queer world order. Canada has a large minority of ukrainians, Great Britain is as much of a US lap-dog as they get and Merkel is just another ex-Warsaw pact liberal who needs to talk down the great russian nation to avoid people fleeing over the border to the true manly nation.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 18 Nov 2014 @ 9:55am

    “How could we check it?” Saulyanov said. “It came to us from the internet.”

    This guy is the head of the Russian Union of Engineers? Ah I get it, they mean the guys that drive trains.

    Of course, I don't think I would want him running any large equipment anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 18 Nov 2014 @ 4:33pm

      Re:

      One would hope he was the head of a Sanitation Engineers Union. At least this engineer rather admitted (in an unfortunate manner) he doesn't understand anything outside his specialty, as opposed to the cranky sorts who think they understand everything.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), 18 Nov 2014 @ 10:01am

    Thanks for he shout out.

    While the entire world (including those in Russia who are no zombified) is laughing, many major Russian news outlets didn't even bother retracting this shame:

    Дни.ру
    Вести.ру
    НТВ
    Лайфньюс
    Говорит Москва
    ТАСС
    Лента.ру
    Телеканал Звезда
    Комсомольская правда

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DogBreath, 18 Nov 2014 @ 10:07am

    So....

    when did Dan Rather start working for Russia's Channel One?

    And did he ever find out what the damn frequency is/was?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2014 @ 10:31am

      Re: So....

      Hey, you can't blame Dan Rather. He found that on a typewriter.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2014 @ 10:45am

      Re: So....

      I guess ole Dan got Grubered by those documents. Of course most Dems here probably don't know who Gruber is. Yet the talking heads who aren't covering Gruber don't lose their jobs. But hey, there is no bias in the media, right?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 18 Nov 2014 @ 12:45pm

      Re: So....

      "did he ever find out what the damn frequency is/was?"

      4625 kHz

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2014 @ 11:38am

    This is what happens when you get lazy as a news source and start depending on the net to bring you your news sources as opposed to having a reporter that gets out and gets the facts. Follow up on this with an editor that doesn't really check to see the facts are indeed the facts and you get this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 18 Nov 2014 @ 11:49am

    IT CAME FROM THE INTERNET!!

    AIEEEE!!!

    BA-DUM-BUM-BUM!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2014 @ 1:05pm

    I started to chuckle at the Galaga one, but then I remembered the hundreds of people who died.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2014 @ 2:29pm

    Why the double standard at Techdirt?

    This whole thing is just plain stupid. The odds of an orbiting satellite just happening to be overhead photographing that precise area at that exact second is, to say the least, an extraordinary coincidence. Anyone with even a basic understanding of how satellite photography works would understand that. Therefore, the photo's alleged authenticity would be extremely suspect from the very start.

    While TV channels (and most any other news organizations) have been frequently known to run stories based on false or unverified information (Judith Miller's series of front-page stories for the New York Times on Iraq "WMD" come to mind) let's not forget that in the case of Ukraine, both the Ukrainian government and NATO have been putting out false propaganda and fake satellite images supposedly "proving" that Russian military forces are operating inside Ukraine. And yet after months of making these allegations time and again, they've still not been able to provide any evidence of their claim that Russian forces have been operating inside Ukraine (apparently continuously) for the last eight months.

    Yet this story will never die, no matter how many times it's been debunked. The difference is that now, photographs are no longer routinely offered as proof, since they've been debunked so many times in the past.

    Something that I'm trying to understand though, is why Techdirt has been completely silent about the never-ending stream of fake photographs coming from the Ukrainian side for months and published in major US media, yet jumps at the opportunity to point fingers at a fake photograph coming from the (apparently) Russian side and published in Russia media.

    Why the double standard at Techdirt?

    http://eng.mil.ru/en/analytics.htm

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/04/23/1294053/-NYT-ret racts-claims-of-presence-of-Russian-forces-in-Eastern-Ukraine

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Noel Coward, 18 Nov 2014 @ 3:53pm

      Re: Why the double standard at Techdirt?

      Tech Dirt is not the debunker here of these fake photographs - Tech Dirt is reporting on a net-wide prooving of fakery whilst the news outlets and the organisations were still claiming they were real.

      Now, as to the double standards - you may believe that these other photos are fake, but many of them are REAL photos just that they are not necessarily of what the news outlets claim or that there could be other explanations/interpretations of the photos. That's not quite the same thing is it? Tech Dirt doesn't aim to disect every political news story - it's tech based for a start! The clues are there...

      This story is based around the quote "How could we check it? It came to us from the internet." which is very much the kind of thing Tech Dirt reports on!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 18 Nov 2014 @ 4:39pm

      Re: Why the double standard at Techdirt?

      And Techdirt has been going on and on about fake photographs from Russians for months? I don't think you know what a "double standard" is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2014 @ 6:08pm

      Re: Why the double standard at Techdirt?

      On the subject: Russian official "evidence" is completely valid. But exactly as claimed about the US evidence, it is completely impossible to draw any concrete conclusions from it and the narrative provided has been either completely lacking or very sparse, which is a good sign. When it has hit russian media, well...

      What most russian media are running with is something else completely. Both ukrainian media and russian media are in a zombie propaganda war where everything with even the slightest possibility to be true is served as undeniable evidence when it underpins their narrative.

      Most european media have been pretty quiet about the situation in Ukraine except for small mentions of "continuous fighting". NATO has not been caught lying either. That is again a question of spin of the media taking answers out of context.

      I think the separatists are the best source of entertainment. They have been out talking about how they thought the plane was a ukrainian transport when they had it shot down, they have claimed 1200 people entering from Russia after having recieved training and they were mentioning new equipment coming from the russian side of the border several times. Other separatists have the opposite narrative, naturally, but it seems like someone among them are withholding or lying. Looking at it from a distance much of it is a tragedy of media propaganda and lemmings.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 5:19am

      Re: Why the double standard at Techdirt?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 6:53am

        Re: Re: Why the double standard at Techdirt?

        You guys are lucky you can't read Russian. Because the army of trolls on the Russian sites push the idea that since Google is under the NSA thumb, it has recently replaced the satellite images in the area in order to discredit the impeccable evidence.

        I'm horrified of the idea of Techdirt trolls learning about the International Forum Troll Exchange Program.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2014 @ 3:14pm

    Business as usual

    You are not giving enough credits to the Russian state controlled media for their (successful) effort to create a parallel reality for their viewers.
    This blunder is not a mistake - this is how they operate nowadays. They do not care if the "facts" they present turn out to be lies and/or fake. They have enough resources to produce a stream of such lies, and once it's on mainstream TV - it is true, it becomes part of the new reality.
    For example once they showed a "documentary" on how Ukrainian "fascists" are crucifying children - http://online.wsj.com/articles/arkady-ostrovsky-putins-ukraine-unreality-show-1406590397.

    This Ukrainian jet fighter conspiracy theory is just one example out of hundreds of lies (http://www.stopfake.org/en/russia-s-top-100-lies-about-ukraine/)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2014 @ 5:41am

    Decimated =/= devastated

    Decimated means "to reduce by one tenth", and yet it is often used to mean destroyed. I find the above rhyme helps me to remember.

    It's always odd to see a news story describe a tragedy using a word that means a (relatively) minor loss.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 5:58am

      Re:

      Decimated =/= devastated


      Yes. It does. Language evolves. Get with the times. It is now quite widely accepted that decimate means devastate. Yes, it's true that it originally meant reduce by one tenth, but that's an obsolete definition and no longer one that is in common usage.

      http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/decimate?s=t

      It's always odd to see a news story describe a tragedy using a word that means a (relatively) minor loss.


      No, it's not odd. It's the way the language is. This pedantic attempt to refashion the word "decimate" as it was used centuries ago is getting annoying. I know it's become popular with hipsters, but please, let it go.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2014 @ 9:44am

    And the bottom line is still the same.
    No credible evidence on who shot it down.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Andyj, 8 Dec 2014 @ 2:17pm

    I have a completely different take on this from both sides.

    Look on Google and its an ugly patchwork WITH NO MATCHING CLOUDS!. One lie put to rest. This image is far superior to GE's offering

    Obviously the yanks have had their greedy little eyes on the place for a good while due all those dated GE overlays.

    No witnesses saw a BUK smoke trail but they did see fighter jets.

    The fragmentation blast off a BUK is pretty big! This was deffo brought down by an air launched missile.

    Another lie. The images came off a guy in the USA, so what has "Putins poor attempts at photoshop" got to do with it?

    A fly in the ointment. The missile blew on the port side. Not starboard.
    There is another problem. The image is posted in UTC shows the shadows 1~2 hours in the wrong direction. This could of been released to discredit Russia. Not a product of Russian spy satellites

    Big point never publicly made. Putins jet and MH-17 appear very similar indeed from the side if not properly reconnoitred. The shape, size and paintwork are too similar.

    To think the Ukrainians thought they took Putins plane down and going to blame Putins demise on the rebels before they realised the gaff with the wrong plane. BUK? Nice try, no sweetie.

    Oh yes, Ukraine will not release the radar data nor the comms. The investigation is under wraps.

    The photo was decimated by internet sleuths? How about US paid trolls?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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