Never outsmarted but always fooled
There seems to be nothing the Kremlin "fake news" merchants can't accomplish. The Russians are now being credited with causing the breakup of Spain. "Russian propagandists scored a victory in Spain this weekend after “boldly injecting fake news and disinformation” into the debate over Catalonian independence and seemingly influencing the election results, according to U.S. information warfare experts." Each time the technique is the same: divide and conquer.
U.S. information warfare expert Molly K. McKew told The Washington Times. “It’s the constant drumbeat; minorities are disadvantaged, the West has nothing to offer, democracy doesn’t work.”
On Capitol Hill, multiple congressional probes currently investigating the extent of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election have zeroed in on a similar pattern of Kremlin-backed propaganda seemingly amplifying divisive social issues across Facebook and Twitter last year.
Experts say the Kremlin has perfected not promoting a single candidate but instead finding divisive social issues including race, gun control, religion or gay rights to amplify. Eastern European, or Russian, troll farms and robotic accounts then use algorithms to make “emotional hot-button topics” trend across a country’s Internet space.
Jonathan Capehart, writing in the Washington Post wryly describes "how we got played by the Russians on Facebook". How? They simply amplified the media's own biases until they created a kind of self sustaining feedback loop. The WaPo article gives an example of Putin's technique:
Among the more than 3,000 Facebook ads handed over to Congress was one that “featured photographs of an armed black woman ‘dry firing’ a rifle — pulling the trigger of the weapon without a bullet in the chamber, according to people familiar with the investigation.
“Investigators believe the advertisement may have been designed to encourage African American militancy and, at the same time, to stoke fears within white communities, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the probe,” the story goes on to note. “But the precise purpose of the ad remains unclear to investigators, the people said.”
How do the Russians achieve results so disproportionate with their meager means? By taking over the host. What makes "fake news" so difficult to counter is its memes are nearly indistinguishable from "real news", which it can readily hijack. Perhaps the only way to tell them apart is real McCoy is usually more absurd and as inflammatory as the Kremlin counterfeit. Some recent "real news" headlines include:
- Black Lives Matter Students Shut Down the ACLU's Campus Free Speech Event Because 'Liberalism Is White Supremacy'
- Myanmar beauty queen is stripped of her title after accusing Rohingya Muslims of a 'caliphate-style movement'
- Britain to limit acid sales after steep rise in assaults
- Brussels defends use of ‘proportionate force’ in Catalonia