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More bomb than bombshell: Social media mock WaPo’s Alice Donovan story as dud

More bomb than bombshell: Social media mock WaPo’s Alice Donovan story as dud
The Washington Post’s latest “bombshell” has alleged that a rookie journalist who published on left-wing and fringe websites was actually a Russian troll acting on Kremlin orders.

Alice Donovan, or someone writing under that name, published five stories on the left-wing website Counterpunch along with a handful of other less-known websites, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. The Post cited “internal bureau reports” to call Donovan a “pseudonymous foot soldier in an army of Kremlin-led trolls seeking to undermine America’s democratic institutions.”

The Daily Beast re-published the story under an even more sensational headline: “Kremlin troll wrote for far-left US sites.”

While the Post and Beast claimed the curious case of Alice Donovan is part of a Russian disinformation campaign, many social media users were not convinced.

Twitter user @historyinflicks pointed out that Donovan’s Twitter account had a grand total of 40 Twitter followers. That number currently stands at 69, as she has gained more followers since the WaPo story went public.

Alternet journalist Ben Norton called the article a “McCarthyite cudgel” aimed at critics of the Democratic party.

Viewpoint magazine’s Shuja Haider poked fun at the allegation that Donovan is linked to Russia.  

The Daily Beast’s headline prompted a heavy backlash, too.

For its part, Counterpunch could not find clear evidence that confirmed or refuted Donovan’s existence.

“Since we couldn’t seem to prove that Donovan existed in the physical world, we flipped the matter on its head. Could we prove that Alice Donovan wasn’t real? Could we prove that she was a fiction? Could we, in essence, prove a negative? That answer came more quickly: No.”

Prominent Russiagater Eric Garland echoed the Posts’s claims, saying Donovan was an example of the “Kremlin’s tactic of pushing propaganda through *paid freelance journalists*”

According to Counterpunch, however, Donovan was never paid. Of the five articles she wrote, “none of these submissions were commissioned and she wasn’t compensated for any of the stories.”

The New Republic editor Jeet Heer said that even if Donovan were paid, it would be a poor strategy.