In 2016, Russia developed a simple, effective playbook to undermine U.S. elections with disinformation on social media. Four years later, Americans are using the same playbook on each other.One of the producers left the following pinned comment on the YouTube video.
Hello - I’m Isabelle Niu. My colleagues Alex Eaton, Kassie Bracken and I produced this video looking at how domestic disinformation is threatening the U.S. election, four years after Russia developed a playbook to undermine Americans’ faith in the elections using social media. We look at an interesting case study in Kentucky in 2019, where a single tweet that lied about shredding mail-in ballots went viral, and ended up causing real disruptions. Misinformation is likely going to be a recurring problem in U.S. elections going forward. It is important that we understand how it works and what we can do about it."Overlordkraken1" was just trolling, but the people who amplified him had an agenda and they didn't care if they were using misinformation created for entertainment to advance it. That makes them agents, not trolls.* To avoid playing their game, I'm sharing the advice I gave in CBS News and CNN Business explain Russian disinformation and how to deal with it.
Think critically about the source of the story; Ask if others are reporting it; Do a reverse image search, as a lot of disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation (thanks, Nina Jankowicz, for introducing me to that word) uses misattributed or manipulated images or video, such as the SWAT team clip in "Plandemic" John Oliver showed in Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories; and, finally, walk away and calm down so the emotion doesn't overwhelm you.Another author I recommend is Molly McKew at Stand Up Republic, in particular What lessons haven’t we learned since 2016? Lesson 5: Are YOU Disinfo?
First, it matters what narratives you are contributing to online — intentionally or not — and you should be aware not only of where your content comes from, but where it is going.All good advice. Not only will I follow it, I hope my readers do, too.
Second, block bots and disruptive or sketchy accounts that follow and promote you, even if they are agreeing with you. Disincentive the lazy-machinery of propaganda and disinformation whenever you can.
Third, don’t “follow back” or “friend” automatically. Don’t pass on content on more localized platforms if it is from a source you don’t know. Remember the way you engage with accounts and information builds networks that can be monitored and exploited by others.
Fourth, if you find yourself sharing sympathies or narrative with an identified hostile foreign actor or other malign actor, question why, and what that means. Is there a better way to make your point? Avoid tropes and blanket statements, embrace nuance.
Fifth, just as a refresher to the previous columns in this series — always ask what the purpose of the information in front of you is, and what it aims to achieve. Don’t rage-post. Don’t feel like you too must repost viral content that is divisive and inflammatory. Don’t be a cog in the disinformation machine.
That was the last video in the series. Now for the first in the series, Why Voting in This U.S. Election Will Not Be Equal | 2020 Elections.
The first episode of our four-part series, Stressed Election, focuses on voter suppression in Georgia, where a growing Black and Latino population is on the precipice of exercising its political voice, if they get the chance to vote.Like all the rest of the videos in the series, one of the producers wrote a pinned comment about it.
Hi, I'm Alexandra Eaton, one of the producers on this video. My partner, Kassie Bracken, and I have spent the past year exploring what works and what doesn't in the decentralized U.S. election system for a four-part series called Stressed Election. In each episode, we visit a state to explore a problem in detail, and then look at how it affects the nation as a whole.This video emphasizes what I wrote in Vox explains what long voting lines in the US really mean.
Like climate change, The Supreme Court's ruling on Shelby vs. Holder and its effect on voting rights was an issue before the pandemic and will remain one after the pandemic is over. Unlike climate change, it can be fixed just by passing a law, in this case the one named after the late John Lewis. That won't happen this year, as the bill is being held up in the Senate by Mitch McConnell like so many others. Even if it passed there, President Trump is threatening to veto it. On the other hand, if the House of Representatives, Senate, and White House are all in the hands of Democrats next year, the bill can be reintroduced, passed by both houses, and signed into law. That sounds like a good maybe to me.Here's to hoping that's the result of this year's election, along with greater acceptance of voting by mail.
*Speaking of agents, follow over the jump for a song and cartoon about them that I'm recycling for this post. After all, I am an environmentalist!
For the song, I'm sharing my favorite Good Fight Short, Russian Troll Farm.
In case you needed to be singing about Russian Troll Farms for the next week... Jonathan Coulton and Head Gear Animation are back with another Good Fight Short!Too bad this song did not get the Emmy nomination it deserved.
Next, the cartoon, along with a quote from Vox explains how Russian trolls weaponized social media.
I first posted this image in Who's hiding under the bridge of an online science article? along with the description from the now defunct Flame Warriors.*I hope my readers do, too.Agent is a sinister and elusive opponent who usually works in concert with other Agents. Agent generally uses standard combat techniques, but differs from other Warriors in that he is in the employ of some organization. The organization may be political, commercial, or even criminal, and it’s Agent’s job to post messages that advance his employer’s interests.That's who the Internet Research Agency employs, not the standard troll, who is in it for his own entertainment. Speaking of which, it's time to be a good environmentalist and recycle.Back in the days when I tangled with the Men's Rights Movement and gave out awards for stupid net tricks on Usenet, my fellow posters to alt.usenet.kooks and I were regularly called "paid government disinformation agents." We weren't; we were just hobbyists. These guys are the real paid government disinformation agents.Remember, "cyberwarfare doesn't just involve manipulating machines, it also manipulates minds. Welcome to 21st Century psyops and propaganda."
*A Google search revealed that most copies of this image that still exist appear on Russian-language pages. I find that both ironic and eerily apt.