Online Agitprop! Everyone's Doing It!

Email a Friend

On the most recent TLDR, I spoke to Max Seddon, foreign correspondent for Buzzfeed, about some recently unearthed documents that show a massive online pro-Russia propaganda effort with ties to The Kremlin

In that interview, Max made it clear that Russia is far from the only government that does this sort of opinion influencing, citing an AP report from a couple months ago about US efforts to sway public opinion in Cuba by creating its own "fake twitter." from the interview:

USAID set up an entire fake social network for cuban people to get around all the internet filters to Cuba that was meant to create some sort of thing that they could use to influence popular opinion in Cuba, which is closed off to the US, and it's very difficult to do well. because On the internet, people are smart, it's very easy to compare things, and use multiple sources of information and come to the right conclusions. They can tell when something is fake.

On Monday, Glenn Greenwald's The Intercept produced another example of this governmental internet meddling, this time from Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). 

According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the British Government "has developed covert tools to seed the internet with false information, including the ability to manipulate the results of online polls, artificially inflate pageview counts on web sites, 'amplif[y]' sanctioned messages on YouTube, and censor video content judged to be 'extremist.'"

The internet got wise to the manipulation of online polls around the time m00t's 4chan pals nominated him as Time's most influential person of the year, but the documents outline an entire arsenal in the GCHQ's war to win public opinion, as well as record and disrupt users' communications online.

It seems that the level of sophistication in these campaigns is much less hamfisted than Russia's, but refer to this article the next time you see an online poll about the use of military force in another country, or read the comments section of a website. Better yet, just avoid polls and comment sections entirely, as at this point it's probably just a bunch of government operatives shouting at one another.