Is Zero Hedge a Russian Trojan Horse? - 2020-03-09
About a week before Christmas, I received a most unwelcome email. A criminal complaint had been filed against me in Bulgaria, a country I have never visited and with which I had no personal connection. I stood accused of defamation; attempted censorship; illegally spreading personal, family, and business information; and insulting the memory of someone's parents and grandparents.
The email was from a veteran Bulgarian journalist named Krassimir Ivandjiiski, who took issue with an article I had written about Zero Hedge, the hugely popular website founded by his 41-year-old son, Daniel. My article, which appeared on my personal blog, was an outgrowth of a New Republic story I wrote about the business of conspiracies, in which Zero Hedge plays a major role. Millions of readers visit Zero Hedge each month, drawn by the site's deeply pessimistic view of Wall Street and its alarmist, conspiratorial take on international affairs. In the world according to Zero Hedge, the financial markets are always on the verge of collapse and the United States is always a power in decline.
Zero Hedge is often blamed for spreading false information. In February, Twitter permanently banned Zero Hedge's account, which boasted more than 670,000 followers, for violating Twitter's policy prohibiting fake accounts and spam—part of a crackdown that intensified in response to Russia's use of social media to influence voters during the 2016 presidential election. Within hours of the ban, Zero Hedge posted a counternarrative on its site, asserting—falsely, according to Twitter—that it had been suspended over its conspiratorial, evidence-free claims that the coronavirus was a Chinese biological weapon that escaped from a lab in Wuhan, "accidentally or not." Zero Hedge's Twitter ban was big news, and the knee-jerk response by journalists to cover both sides further spread the bogus coronavirus conspiracy, which has continued to gain ground since Republican Senator Tom Cotton repeated it on Fox News.