2017’s biggest news story has been Russia’s alleged use of social media to try to influence Western elections. Much criticism is directed towards RT.com, the “Russia Today” news network created in 2005 by the Russian government, which offers round-the-clock reporting from offices in Moscow, London, and Washington, DC. RT has regularly been denounced as a propaganda outlet, but a content analysis of RT’s flagship public affairs program does not directly support this claim. RT features dissident voices from legitimate Western institutions, suggesting that its media strategy is more one of muckraking and critique than of outright disinformation. Russia’s investment in RT can be understood as a geopolitical strategy of undermining informational governance in the West by supporting muckraking, critical thinking, and anti-hegemonic narratives of public affairs. For societies subject to such reporting, this strategy of “geopolitical muckraking” may offer some benefits insofar as it diversifies voices in the public sphere, highlights wrong-doing, and counters dominant narratives disseminated by domestic media.
Hans K. Klein, Ph.D., is associate professor in the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His research interests include: Internet governance, globalization and regulation, the development of large scale systems, federal technology policy, the politics of innovation, Intelligent Transportation Systems, public access television, and Internet and democracy. He earned a Ph.D. in political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, after earning an M.S. in technology and policy at MIT, and a B.S. in engineering at Princeton University.