From Iceland — Finance Paper Pays For Anonymous Smear Articles On Facebook

Finance Paper Pays For Anonymous Smear Articles On Facebook

Published October 20, 2017

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Viðskiptablaðið, a financial newspaper with a decidedly conservative bent, has been publishing anonymous articles smearing Left-Green chair Katrín Jakobsdóttir and the magazine Stundin. The paper then pays for Facebook to boost the articles, written under the pseudonym “Týr” and “Óðinn”, Eyjan reports.

One column of Týr’s, “Tell The Truth, Kata”, using the informal form of Katrín, complained that the most recent candidate debates shown on public broadcasting service RÚV were not critical enough of her, saying that the Left-Green Party was placing all their bets on her to carry them into the elections, with a platform based primarily on raising taxes. The Left-Greens are currently polling as the strongest or next strongest party in the country.

As Eyjan points out, this column appears to many on Facebook as a “Sponsored” post, meaning that the paper has paid Facebook to boost its distribution to reach as many people as possible.

Another column, written under the pseudonym Óðinn, downplayed the importance of the injunction placed on the magazine Stundin, saying that revelations of Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson’s financial dealings with Glitnir bank before the crash were “non-news”, and that the Guardian – who worked with Stundin and Reykjavík Media on the story – was “very leftist”.

This particular column was met with harsh criticism in the Facebook group Fjölmiðlanördar (Media Nerds), in particular from other journalists. Andrés Magnússon, a reporter for Viðskiptablaðið and an active participant in the Independence Party campaign, defended the columns, saying that Stundin’s reporting on Bjarni was “inexact, even wrong, about the major details”, without exactly detailing what Stundin got wrong.

If nothing else, the conservative press going to such lengths to attempt to smear the Left-Greens could indicate they are decidedly threatened by how well the left is polling. In fact, Bjarni has recently expressed fears that Iceland’s next government will be leftist.

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