Sunday, March 3, 2019

Why did Engadget think is a Russian propaganda site?

Last month, Engadget and Point ran an investigation that found Russian propaganda is still "a big problem for Reddit."  The piece highlighted three domains alleged to be Russian propaganda:,, and  These sites were supposedly being spammed in dozens of different subreddits:    

As I read the Engadget article, I paid close attention to how the author, Benjamin Plackett, concluded that the domains were indeed Russian propaganda.

For, he cited an academic paper by researcher Jessikka Aro.

For, he cited a 2017 report from Politico.

For, he cited an article on ThinkProgress by Casey Michel, titled: "Why did Columbus Nova register websites aimed at young white supremacists?"  Columbus Nova is a New York-based company with business ties to the Russian conglomerate Renova, which in turn is run by the Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg. 

Here's where things get murky:  In his article, Michel noted that Columbus Nova registered several domains with variations of the phrase "alt-right."  These included:,, and  Michel also wrote:
There’s no evidence any material ever existed on the sites, and all of them return an error message.
That line caught my attention, because is clearly an active website.  Furthermore, the Internet Archive shows was active in 2017 and 2018, which is in contradiction with Michel's observation. 

So here's what I think happened:  Casey Michel made a typo.  (He probably meant to type or  And Engadget took the typo at face value.

As far as I can tell, is a run-of-the-mill nationalist website.  The masthead lists "Brandon Martinez" and "Charlemagne" as the chief editors.  You can watch interviews on YouTube with them.  Brandon Martinez has an Amazon page, and his author bio says he's Canadian.  I don't see any obvious Russian connection.  Granted, it's not great if people on Reddit are sharing alt-right material, but that isn't the same thing as promoting Russian propaganda.  I think the distinction is important.

Unfortunately I don't have an active subscription on Whoisology right now, so I can't dive into the historical WHOIS records for  (I'd want to check if it was ever registered to the e-mail address   The current WHOIS page for shows it's registered with a proxy service, but that record may have changed over time.    

I'm going to reach out to Engadget and see if they can fact-check whether was ever registered to Columbus Nova.  I'll update this post if they respond.  


Anonymous said...

Hi. This is We have no affiliation to anything Russian, in fact we are very critical of Russia. Enjoy the site!

Anonymous said...

The mistake was definitely due to a typo or something like that.