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Sat Feb 20, 2021, 08:59 PM

It Looks Like a News App in the Apple Store. It's Really Russian Propaganda.

If you ever come across progressive sounding content that appears to echo Republican talking points or QAnon like conspiracy theories, you have to keep in mind that some foreign actors target progressives as well as the right.


Dubbed “Portable.TV,” the new app went live a few months ago, according to its Apple Store history. Billing itself as a “one-of-a-kind free streaming service & TV library of news programs, talk shows, business updates, professional sports highlights and comedy,” the app claims to allow users to “stay informed & up to date” via Portable.TV’s “uniquely global perspective [that] foregrounds marginalized or dissident viewpoints to give you a clearer picture of the world.” As the app says, “Truth shouldn’t have limits: You can take Portable.TV wherever you go.”

One problem, though: The only shows available on Portable.TV are produced by RT America, including shows like Redacted Tonight with self-proclaimed comedian Lee Camp and The World According to Jesse with former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura. That is, despite claiming to be “killer television” that is the “home of thousands of shows,” the only shows actually available on the app are those found on a Russian propaganda channel. There isn’t a single show on Portable.TV that didn’t originate on RT.

The app fits a recent trend of Russian-backed propaganda outlets targeting American audiences while simultaneously masking their links back to Moscow. For instance, a supposedly “grassroots” outlet called Redfish, as The Daily Beast previously reported, shares considerable overlap with RT. CNN also revealed last year that another social media “news” outlet, In The Now, tracks directly back to Moscow.

“RT has gotten dinged for not attributing its affiliated or subsidiary content in the past,” Renee DiResta, the Research Manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, said. “In The Now, Waste-ed, and a few other entities were briefly kicked off of Facebook in 2019 for not disclosing their parent relationship. Now their pages have a statement making that relationship clear, although it isn’t always noted when you view the content itself—it’s really hard to tell who’s behind In The Now videos that are shared on Twitter, for example.”

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