Y’all need to stop falling for fake news

For a little while, claims that Wargaming is being investigated for money laundering have been circulating. With the recent World of Warships controversy, the company’s been put under the microscope and many think they’ve found a big scoop: greedy foreign gaming company being investigated for money laundering. In particular, this video has started making the rounds.

I didn’t want to spend my Saturday morning dealing with this, but a lot of you seem to be falling for this video, so I had to intervene. I’ve watched the video, noted its claims, and responded below.

“before I was permanently suspended from Twitter…”

Oh boy, here we go.

Actually, the first 8 minutes or so are a very competent overview of the recent controversy surrounding the Yukon, the Missouri, and why so many CCs are jumping ship. I hesitate to recommend the video for reasons that’ll soon be apparent, but credit where it’s due, the creator did a good job on this segment.

If anyone has a good summary post or video on the topic, please let me know and I’ll link it here.

“Wargaming is a Russian company”

They’re a Belarusian company, from Belarus. That’s why their HQ is in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. To be fair, this is a common misunderstanding.

“Wargaming is under investigation for money laundering.” Proceeds to read off a couple of “news” articles from different sites.

This story has been bouncing around for a little while now, with first “reports” dating back to December 2020. All of these reports are nearly identical wording, and the websites are very suspicious.

“America Daily Post” doesn’t have a working contact form, and the list of staff is also broken.

The main source for this is “IPS News”, and you know a source is trustworthy if you’ve never heard of them before. The article is attributed to Graham Stack, who has a suspicious email link (the OCCRP is a real organization and they use [AT]occrp.org for their emails). However, it is posted by a William Smith, so clearly he copied the content from elsewhere. Browsing the OCCRP’s website does not turn up any articles on GlobalMoney, so where does the story come from?

It names “Adamos Savvides” as being guilty of money laundering, so let’s Google that name. One of the first hits is for techgamingreport.com, which is a copy-pasted article. The “About” page for this site, which at one point refers to the site as “Techzimo”, lists a single email address for contacting them: powerhayden58[AT]gmail.com.

Another article is on nextvame.com, which has the exact same theme, a much lower-effort “About” page, and also directs you to email powerhayden58[AT]gmail.com.

Then it’s lchilltopnews.org, which is actually “The Hill Top News”. Its About page is a word-for-word copy of techgamingreport, or should I say “Techzimo” – it leaves out the email address but I think we can guess who this belongs to.

In fact, searching for “[email protected] unveils a massive network of fake news websites that are all run by the same person or group. Who is powerhayden58, and why are they doing this?

Me right now

Let’s keep going. tekdeeps.com is the first hit that’s not the same article – it’s simply a report from October 2020 stating that Wargaming has partnered with GlobalMoney. Notably, this is a low-quality translation of a Ukrainian website, from which we can fetch the proper spelling for our friend Adamos: Адамос Саввідес. Googling this gives a whole bunch of copy-paste articles, this time in Ukrainian. I won’t go down the rabbit hole this time – suffice to say, it’s of dubious credibility.

Let’s take a step back. Does Wargaming even accept payments from GlobalMoney? The support pages for their RU site make no mentions of GlobalMoney, and none of their news posts from around October 2020 mention GlobalMoney. (They do offer a credit card which gives gold as a cashback reward.)

Okay, is GlobalMoney even real? The article names GlobalMoney, Global24, and Vyacheslav Strelkovsky (Вячеслав Стрелковский). Global24 appears to be a real thing, though of very questionable legitimacy, and their website is very shady, requiring a captcha just to view the homepage. GlobalMoney has a nearly identical website, except it’s almost completely empty. At this point, we’re well outside the anglosphere of the internet, and I have no good way of verifying the legitimacy of non-English sources, so we’ll have to drop this topic.

Except… one article that mentions GlobalMoney’s issues is a Ukrainian source that cites a no-name American blog, the “USA Reformer”, which then cites dubinsky.pro. This is (or was) the website of Oleksandr Dubinsky, a Ukrainian journalist turned politician turned former politician, who was sanctioned by the United States for attempting to interfere with the 2020 election.

Yes, seriously – part of this story ultimately traces back to someone who is recognized by the United States government for spreading misinformation.

This is a larger, more fascinating shitshow than I ever expected. We are so far removed from the original story that it’s impossible to say where the truth ends and the lies begin. However, the specific claim that Wargaming is tied up in some sort of money laundering investigation is exclusively perpetrated by fake news websites. Supporting claims are provided by a deeply interwoven network of American and Ukrainian websites, some of which trace back to a very famous spreader of misinformation.

I don’t expect anyone to do this much research on the topic, but I saw so many people take the claims at face value. Any of you who did should be asking yourself, how do you acquire information and how do you decide what is trustworthy? Don’t believe everything you read online.

——-

Interestingly, a different story on Cyprus alleges that they hand out “golden passports“, essentially offering citizenship to anyone who pays enough money. Forbes Russia reported that Wargaming is tied up in this, and this is quite possibly true.

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