Home / Editor's Pick

The dark side of translation: The Epoch Times is now spreading disinformation through new brands

2021-02-26 Author:LAURA HAZARD OWEN


The growing stream of reporting on and data about fake news, misinformation, partisan content, and news literacy is hard to keep up with. This weekly roundup offers the highlights of what you might have missed.

The Epoch Times branches out. The Epoch Times — the conspiracy-theory-pushing, pro-Trump news site with shadowy origins and ownership, and “the culmination of all that Facebook has encouraged” — is already published in 22 languages, including Persian, Hebrew, and Vietnamese. But those editions are published under The Epoch Times’ banner. Now the organization is, uh, expanding its disinformation services with Tierra Pura, a separate, Argentina-based website that spreads conspiracy theories and false information about Covid-19, QAnon, and U.S. election fraud, and publishes in both Spanish and Portuguese. Tierrapura.org doesn’t reveal its link to the Epoch Times, saying only that it’s run by “a group of concerned citizens,” but a new investigation by the nonprofit EU Disinfo Lab reveals the site’s connection.

“Tierra Pura is regularly disseminating content in Spanish and Portuguese languages from media outlets connected to the Epoch Media Group … as well as other institutions and outlets linked to the Falun Gong ecosystem and other alternative media with dubious credibility,” writes Raquel Miguel, the report’s author, adding:

Tierra Pura is an example of how disinformation generated in one country can easily reach other countries through a common language: Tierra Pura originates from Argentina, but its content is disseminated in other [Latin] American countries sharing the same language and even in other continents, reaching audiences located in Spain. This situation makes it harder to hold accountable the people who spread harmful content as they can live thousands of kilometres away from the countries where their messages have an actual impact.

In June 2020, Tierra Pura was acknowledged for the first time in an article from Spanish fact-checker @maldita_es as a spreader of disinformation. Since then, the disinformation outlet has also appeared in several pieces by other fact-checkers. (3/n)https://t.co/tgLtTR5E6w

— EU DisinfoLab (@DisinfoEU) February 10, 2021

Over the last months, Tierra Pura also actively recirculated QAnon conspiracy content as well as false allegations of voter fraud connected to the US presidential election. (6/n) pic.twitter.com/vjY4hQc668

— EU DisinfoLab (@DisinfoEU) February 10, 2021

But in reality, the disinformation outlet is operated from South America, highlighting the cross-continental distribution of disinformation in the Spanish language. (11/n) pic.twitter.com/JsT5NhFIB1

— EU DisinfoLab (@DisinfoEU) February 10, 2021

And there is more.

Despite having been flagged several times by factcheckers as a source of disinformation, Tierra Pura has been able to publish 590 Facebook ads in less than a year that were identified as containing content about “Social issues, elections or politics”. (16/n) pic.twitter.com/z0JyS63NBO

— EU DisinfoLab (@DisinfoEU) February 11, 2021