Behind the "best source of information for expats"By Misch Pautsch Switch to German for original article
Bizarre websites can be found a dime a dozen. But a Russian-language media platform that almost exclusively takes over Luxembourgish local news word for word makes you look twice. Especially since the authors seem to work from Serbia and Russia, and the actors behind the platform remain largely unknown. We took a closer look at luxtoday.lu.
"Check the source" is one of the basics of media literacy – don't believe everything just because it's written somewhere. Often a concise Google search is enough to get a rough idea of which websites and groups on social media platforms can be trusted and which should be waved off immediately. But this is becoming more and more complicated. The line between serious media and organisations that pretend to be or honestly try to be is sometimes diffuse. Almost no one really has an overview anymore.
Nevertheless, it remains an unusual situation when neither the Ministry of Media nor the Press Council has ever heard of the self-proclaimed "best source of information on the most important happenings in Luxembourg for expats". Yet the website luxtoday.lu appears to be an extremely active bilingual platform with a permanent staff. Up to ten articles appear daily on the website, whose name is reminiscent of the Kremlin-controlled Russian broadcaster Russia Today (later RT). Readers who are not put off by the name will find here mainly English and Russian direct translations of short texts by established Luxembourgish, and more rarely international, media. All are shared in duplicate on the medium's Facebook, Twitter and Telegram channels, each in English and Russian. Considerable work for the at least two people who, according to the public LinkedIn page, are each supposed to contribute as content manager and editor for the medium. Especially since it is not clear how the site and the staff are financed. The advertisements that are usually omnipresent (not only) in free media are missing here, just like a subscription system, marked "sponsored content" or a possibility to donate money directly. Sources of income seem to be completely missing.
Motivated staff and bots
Nevertheless, the staff are productive: local, sometimes very specific Luxembourgish topics are the clear focus of the site: the very first post shared on the Russian-language Telegram channel (with almost 2,700 subscribers today) on 21 January 2021 was a summary of an RTL feature on Marc Giorgetti after he became president of the "Groupement des entrepreneurs du bâtiment et des travaux publics". A highly specialised niche topic, especially as the very first article of a newly founded platform. It is impossible to find out which article was the first to be published on the site, as it crashes if scrolled too far. Subsequent texts also remain local: product recalls, short news items, articles on the housing market and translations of reports on local press conferences. At first glance, the site looks like a local paper – if the employees didn't live in Russia and Serbia, according to their otherwise almost empty LinkedIn profiles. Among the many articles, each of which is only a few sentences long, there are also eleven Russian-language testimonials from people who write about their lives in the Grand Duchy. All are written in the first person and accompanied by private photos. The site's social media profiles are also regularly fed. Around 2,700 people follow the medium's Russian-language channel. The Instagram channel Luxtoday is a luxury lifestyle profile that has no obvious connection to the site. Luxemburgtoday, however, describes itself as the "editor" of Luxembourg ToDay and is filled with seemingly unrelated photos tagged in Luxembourg. The comments sections of the posts are filled with reactions from profiles with similar names, all of whom not only leave almost identical comments, but to a large extent post identical content on their profiles, and like each other's conten.
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