Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every week, we bring you important news stories from the world of media – and try to put them in a wider context.
Over the past weeks, Russian troops have been building up on the border with Ukraine, and the tension has been the highest in years, with Western politicians and intelligence services warning about a distinct possibility of Russia further invading Ukraine. Playing its role, the Russian news media has stepped up propaganda efforts.
Overall, December and January saw an increase in the volume and intensity of anti-Ukrainian and anti-Western rhetoric by some of the largest Russian state-backed outlets like RT, analysis shows.
The propaganda includes false claims that Ukraine is preparing to attack Russian-language speakers in the country, while the United States is planning a chemical attack. Most propaganda is aimed at the domestic audience, perhaps building up support for a potential war, but the efforts span beyond Russian-speaking readers and viewers.
As The New York Times notes writing about Russia’s media influence abroad, citing US intelligence officials, “while Russia is unlikely to change many minds in Europe, its messaging has had more traction in South America and Africa, muddying the waters about which country is responsible for the Ukraine crisis.”
This week saw a standoff between prominent Canadian-American singer Neil Young and audio company Spotify.
On Monday, Young, who has been in the news for his ideological positions before, wrote an open letter to Spotify demanding to remove his music from the platform because of Spotify hosting Joe Rogan.
The Joe Rogan Experience, the most popular podcast in the world now hosted exclusively by Spotify, has been a subject of copious criticism for giving a platform to misinformation, particularly around COVID-19 vaccines. That’s also the topic Neil Young took issue with, blasting Spotify for “spreading fake information about vaccines.”
Read more from The Fix on recent criticism of Joe Rogan in a January edition of our weekly digest.
In a few days, Spotify agreed to remove Young’s music from the streaming service. “We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify,” the company noted in a statement, “but hope to welcome him back soon.”
Choosing Joe Rogan over Neil Young has not been a particularly difficult decision for Spotify, The Verge’s Ashley Carman notes. His podcast “has become the lynchpin to [Spotify’s] entire podcasting apparatus,” helping to both attract new subscribers and bring lucrative ad sales.
A group of British MPs moved against the practice of foreign oligarchs “from autocratic countries” using top law firms to intimidate news outlets.
As The Guardian notes, “a cross-party group of MPs called on ministers to introduce legislation to prevent deep-pocketed individuals and powerful corporations from misusing the legal system to ‘intimidate and destroy’ reporters.” This practice is called SLAPP, which stands for a “strategic lawsuit against public participation.”
Recent cases highlighted by the politicians include lawsuits brought against Tom Burgis of the Financial Times by Kazakh mining company ENRC, as well as suits by Russian oligarchs against Catherine Belton, author of a recent book “Putin’s People.”
Although it’s unclear whether new legislation will emerge from this call, further attention to what is a serious problem across many countries is a positive sign.
Bonus — Seven more stories you might want to check out: