Someday soon, the reading public will miss the days when a bit of detective work could identify completely fictitious authors. Consider the case of “Alice Donovan.” In 2016, a freelance writer by that name emailed the editors of CounterPunch, a left-leaning independent media site, to pitch a story. Her Twitter profile identified her as a journalist. Over a period of 18 months, Donovan pitched CounterPunch regularly; the publication accepted a handful of her pieces, and a collection of left-leaning sites accepted others.
Then, in 2018, the editor of CounterPunch received a phone call from The Washington Post. A reporter there had obtained an FBI report suggesting that Alice Donovan was a “persona account”—a fictitious figure—created by the Main Directorate, the Russian military-intelligence agency commonly known as the GU. Skeptical of the Russia