Government hysteria over “Russian disinformation” on the internet throughout the 2016 presidential election will serve as the justification for the U.S. to establish a new information warfare machine.
This week, Congress listened to representatives from Facebook, Google and Twitter discuss how “Russian disinformation” agents used their platforms to attack American democracy.
“When it comes to the 2016 election the foreign interference we saw is reprehensible and outrageous and opened a new battleground for our company, our industry, and our society. That foreign actors, hiding behind fake accounts, abused our platform and other internet services to try to sow division and discord—and to try to undermine our election process—is an assault on democracy, and it violates all of our values,” Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch said.
The whole thing was very dramatic (or, at least as dramatic as anything you could expect to catch midweek on CSPAN), complete with the release of ads Russian operatives allegedly bought to influence the election.
Following the testimony, news stories about how Russia mindf*cked ALL the voters ahead of election day.
The Washington Post reported:
The ads that emerged, a sampling of the 3,000 that Russians bought during the 2016 presidential campaign and its aftermath, demonstrated in words and images a striking ability to mimic American political discourse at its most fractious. The targeting information also showed a shrewd understanding of how best to use Facebook to find and influence voters most likely to respond to the pitches.
As a group, the ads made visceral appeals to voters concerned about illegal immigration, the declining economic fortunes of coal miners, gun rights, African American political activism, the rising prominence of Muslims in some U.S. communities and many other issues. Some of the ads, many of which were bought in Russian rubles, also explicitly called for people to attend political rallies amid a campaign season that already was among the most polarizing in recent U.S. history.
They were targeted to many types of Facebook users, including professed gun lovers, fans of Martin Luther King Jr., supporters of Trump, supporters of Clinton, residents of specific states, and Southerners who Facebook’s algorithms concluded were interested in “Dixie.”
Of course, only whispered in the reports was the fact that the Russian ads accounted for only a minuscule portion of the content following across American social feeds each day.
As Reason pointed out:
According to Facebook, the ads bought by the Internet Research Agency represented “four-thousandths of one percent (0.004%) of content in News Feed, or approximately 1 out of 23,000 pieces of content.” The Times concedes that “Russia-linked posts represented a minuscule amount of content compared with the billions of posts that flow through users’ News Feeds every day.” Between 2015 and 2017, the paper notes, “people in the United States saw more than 11 trillion posts from pages on Facebook.”
The Russian contribution on other platforms looks similarly unimpressive. Twitter Acting General Counsel Sean Edgett testified that “the 1.4 million election-related Tweets that we identified through our retrospective review as generated by Russian-linked, automated accounts constituted less than three-quarters of a percent (0.74%) of the overall election-related Tweets on Twitter at the time.” The Timesadmits that tweets by Russian operatives posing as Americans “may have added only modestly to the din of genuine American voices in the pre-election melee,” and “many of the suspect posts were not widely shared.”
Still, don’t expect the hysterics to end anytime soon– there’s an agenda to accomplish.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper spoke to a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about Russia’s “multifaceted campaign” to undermine American democracy back in January.
He told lawmakers the “classic propaganda, disinformation, fake news” employed by Russians on social media are a good reason to consider a reestablishing the United States Information Agency.
“I do think that we could do with having a USIA on steroids … [We could use] the United States Information Agency to fight this information war a lot more aggressively than I think we’re doing right now,” he said.
Official state-sponsored American propaganda police enlisted to monitor the internet, shut down “disinformation” and peddle the American government’s approved version of any given story with the help of tech billionaires don’t exactly sound like the kind of correction needed to best insulate democracy in the U.S. from outside influence. But that’s the correction we’re going to get.