Between now and November 3
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 work up to the alarming reality that we were invaded, via social media, by Russia in the 2016 election. In addition to outright cyber 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 and even on US soil.
Trump's 2016 win was surely helped by Russia's effort. It was also helped by the fact that social media platforms, such as Facebook, enable highly targeted advertising. Specific swingable districts and demographics in "purple" states were easily targeted by low-cost social media advertising. The 2016 election was determined by 78,000 voters across three swing states.
In 2020, the United States is facing 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 building since the 2016 campaign. This engine for building followers, testing messaging and further driving the divisions that have now come to define aspects of American society. Impeachment wasn't a hindrance, it was an opportunity for a campaign -- cries of a witch hunt were a means of attracting new followers, mobilizing volunteers and generating donations.
With WEEKS to go before the election, how do we fight disinformation? Regulating the social media platforms will take years, and face untold uphill battles. What do we do now?
The first, necessary step is education. Social media platforms will be a major battleground in the upcoming election. Learn to recognize the common disinformation tactics and understand how it is designed to trigger outrage. The platforms themselves are polarizing and push us deeper into our own communities. Facebook comments are too easily a place for one-sided debate and not a place to change minds.
What we can do instead is amplify the causes and candidates we support.
There is much more to do after November 3.