How NOT to believe the fakes of life from Russian bots

UPDATE: 8/28/2017 at 3:22 pm. Can’t imagine why but having written this, I just found myself putting on the Beatles’ “White Album.” Which kicks off with “Back in the USSR.”

Source: Pro-Russian Bots Take Up the Right-Wing Cause After Charlottesville – ProPublica

It begins:

Angee Dixson joined Twitter on Aug. 8 and immediately began posting furiously — about 90 times a day. A self-described American Christian conservative, Dixson defended President Donald Trump’s response to the unrest in Charlottesville, criticized the removal of Confederate monuments and posted pictures purporting to show violence by left-wing counterprotesters.

“Dems and Media Continue to IGNORE BLM and Antifa Violence in Charlottesville,” she wrote above a picture of masked demonstrators labeled “DEMOCRAT TERROR.”

But Dixson appears to have been a fake, according to an analysis by Ben Nimmo and Donara Barojan of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council think tank. The account has been shut down. Dixson’s profile picture was stolen from a young Instagram celebrity (a German model rumored to have dated Leonardo DiCaprio). Dixson used a URL shortener that is a tell for the sort of computer program that automatically churns out high volumes of social media posts whose authorship is frequently disguised. And one of her tweets attacked Sen. John McCain for his alleged support of Ukrainian neo-Nazis, echoing language in tweets from Russian outlets RT and Sputnik.

I’ve noticed what I believe are Russian bot or kompromat comments to many of the New York Times’ stories. I can’t exactly articulate what makes me think a comment is fake; I haven’t developed any rules, so to speak, for figuring it out. For one thing, I’d smell “Angee Dixson” as a fake: the spelling of both names doesn’t feel exactly American, does it?

But bots or propagandists who comment in the Times are now lazily using initials like “JM” and identifying themselves as located in, say, NYC, or Boston–i.e., deep blue cities, as if that gives them the seal of approval and insures we’ll believe them.

But mostly, I am worried about the intermediate ground.

There are numerous fake news propaganda bulletins created by the Russians and shared by the crazy right wing internet sites which broadcast to their acolytes and true believers. OK, we know that.

So the big question is: why do many people believe this junk? Or decide to believe it–which really is a different and maybe more horrifying possibility? I don’t believe this nonsense for a moment. Who are the people who do, and worse, vote based on the fake news they’re eating up?

And how can the majority of moderately rational people in this country who get their news from credible news sources come up with an effective way of dissuading our so-called fellow citizens from being brainwashed? How do intelligent politicians present themselves and their policies against the hysteria produced by this crap?

Here are the final paragraphs of this important ProPublica story:

Tracking disinformation online is challenging because it can be hard to discern users’ motivations and affiliations. But congressional investigators probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 election are interested in how social networks spread fake news and propaganda, such as documents stolen by Russian hackers from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.

“The Internet and social media provide Russia cheap, efficient and highly effective access to foreign audiences with plausible deniability of their influence,” another of the researchers working with the Alliance to Secure Democracy, Clint Watts, told the Senate Intelligence Committee in March. “This pattern of Russian falsehoods and social media manipulation of the American electorate continued through Election Day and persists today.”


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