Education and caution are the best weapons against information warfare. But our days are full and time is limited. This website is an attempt to provide concerned people with a digest of updated and readable disinformation-related facts and news. We can not afford not to know.
Over the past few years, we have been waking up to the alarming reality that we were invaded, via social media, by Russia in the lead up to the 2016 election. In addition to outright attacks such as Guccifer 2.0 - a supposedly lone hacker who broke into the Democratic National Committee network - our local communities were infiltrated via fake Facebook pages and communities and troll-administered accounts. It is not an exaggeration to say that a war of information was carried out against US citizens on US-owned social media platforms.
Russia's overall goal is to cause chaos in Western democracy. The same chaos is playing out in England as Brexit. Russia's troll-driven efforts exploit pre-existing divisions in Western society. It is impossible to determine whether Trump's 2016 win can be attributed to Russia's effort. It certainly was a factor, considering Trump's win was determined by 78,000 voters across three swing states. And he was the chaos candidate.
In February 2017, Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and the Internet Research Agency (IRA). In the months following, investigators and researchers dug through hundreds of thousands of troll-created posts that had reached millions of US citizens. Mueller describes the Russian efforts as "sweeping and systematic."
Our government minimizes or engages in outright denial about the Russian information war of 2016. Trump officials were warned not to focus on Russian interference even though they had real concerns about 2020. Election interference raises questions about Trump's legitimacy as an elected leader. As a country, we have not armed ourselves. Nevertheless, disinformation grows more rampant by the day, and the techniques more technologically advanced.
The United States also faces a disinformation war from within. Trump's 2016 Social Media Director, Brad Parscale, was promoted to the role of 2020 Campaign Manager. Parscale attributes the 2016 campaign's come-from-behind win, at least partially, to his self-described bunker mentality. He knows how to leverage the targeting and the reach of social media platforms, and he did just that in the waning weeks of the 2016 campaign.
Facebook is a marketing engine, which Parscale has continued leveraging since the 2016 win. Trump's 2020 campaign started on November 9, 2016. It is an engine for to building followers, testing messaging and further exploiting the divisions that have now come to define aspects of American society. For the Trump team, Impeachment isn't a hindrance, it's a campaign. Impeachment and cries of a witch hunt are a means of attracting new followers, mobilizing volunteers and generating donations. Trump has already has invested millions in the impeachment campaign, and his divisive, explosive messaging is paying off.
With months to go before the election, how do we fight disinformation? Regulating the social media platforms will take years, and face untold uphill battles. We need to take action now.
The first, necessary step is to educate ourselves. We must learn to recognize disinformation in its many, changing forms. This isn't a matter of dropping our Facebook or Instagram accounts. It's about becoming educated consumers on these platforms and sharing only information that is trustworthy.
First Draft is a nonprofit that focuses on building trust and amplifying truth in the news. The organization's founder, Claire Wardle, describes the current state of information in the digital age as Information Disorder. This chart shows the three variations of untrustworthy information:
Ready for 2020
Disinformation is that which is intentionally untrue and created and disseminated to serve a specific agenda, often for malicious reasons.