There is nothing new about “fake news.” It is as old as civilization. Historically, “fake news” was used as a propaganda tool that consisted of deliberate misinformation. With the advent of online social media, “fake news” became the new epidemic. It has become scarily easy to spread and disrupt serious, important, and delicate conversations by using false and unfounded information.
Such is this classic case of “fake news.”
In recent days, a news story surfaced asserting that APCO Worldwide was somehow involved in serving Russian interests because of its close ties with the Clinton Global Initiative.
The Hill, for example, very seriously, quoted an "FBI informant”: “The informant, Douglas Campbell, said in the statement obtained by The Hill that he was told by Russian nuclear executives that Moscow had hired the American lobbying firm APCO Worldwide specifically because it was in position to influence the Obama administration, and more specifically Hillary Clinton.” This unfounded story was quickly amplified by tens of online media outlets without none checking the facts or even bothered by the simple fact that the so-called “informant" was quoting vague, unnamed, and unidentified “Russian sources.”
APCO’s founder, Margery Kraus, vehemently denied these allegations. Clearly, this is a classic D.C. political battle where the truth is only an option.
As a member of APCO’s International Advisory Council, I would like to share with our readers some facts. It is an important exercise in the age of “fake news”:
First, APCO never worked for Uranium One or on its CFIUS matter. Any suggestion to the contrary is patently false. All one needs to do is to simply review the public record.
Second, indeed, APCO did work for Tenex, the Russian nuclear agency but it was to advance efforts to take Russian nuclear material off the market, and safely sell it to U.S. commercial energy producers. This work was filed publicly under the FARA regulation when it occurred almost a decade ago and so the amounts, efforts, and clients are easily known by any party. The current allegations are exactly the opposite. Fact: APCO never worked for Uranium One. APCO’s work focused on regulatory issues aimed at helping Russia better compete for nuclear fuel contracts inside the United States.
Third, APCO’s volunteer work for the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), which predated its engagement with Tenex by three years and continued five years after the Tenex work concluded, is part of its proud history of giving programs. This engagement was also publicly and fully documented. During that time, APCO led efforts at CGI’s press room and built critical communications capacity to help CGI and its members to tell their story.
Fact: APCO’s work for Tenex and the Clinton Global Initiative was in no way connected. Both were publicly documented from the outset, legally proper, and entirely ethical. Clearly, any assertion otherwise is false and unfounded.
So, what do we have here? Two perfectly legitimate projects — one which elevated global security and aided an effort to curb nuclear proliferation, and the other which helped companies promote their commitments to improve the social fabric of our global community — reframed as wrongdoings in a false and aggressive fashion.
The information revolution brought about many wonderful things, such as unprecedented access to sources and volume of new information created. One of its most disturbing side effects is the inability, or worse, the unwillingness of media outlets to fully and professionally examine their sources.
Ambassador Ido Aharoni serves as a global distinguished professor at New York University’s School of International Relations in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Ambassador Aharoni is a 25-year veteran of Israel’s Foreign service, a public diplomacy specialist, founder of the Brand Israel program and a well-known nation branding practitioner. He is the founder of Emerson Rigby Ltd., an Israel-based consultancy firm specializing in non-product branding and positioning. Ambassador Aharoni, who served as Israel's longest serving consul-general in New York and the tristate area for six years, oversaw the operations of Israel’s largest diplomatic mission worldwide. Ambassador Aharoni joined Israel’s Foreign Service in the summer of 1991 and held two other overseas positions in Los Angeles (1994-1998) and in New York (2001-2005). He is a graduate of Tel Aviv University (Film, TV, Sociology and Social Anthropology) and Emerson College (Master’s in Mass Communications and Media Studies). At the Hebrew University in Jerusalem he attended the special Foreign Service program in Government and Diplomacy. To reach more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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