Remember the Russians’ default political smear?

While working on Part Two: The Fakes of Life for my book, How I Learned The Facts of Life, I picked up a pattern in the Russian attacks on our 2016 election. They throw out false accusations (kompromat) of pedophilia and/or child trafficking against an opponent, such as the crazy Comet Pizza business against Hillary Clinton.

It’s my perception that pedophilia and child-trafficking accusations are the Russians’ default internet assault. It’s easy and lazy, it doesn’t involve any work — maybe 20 seconds at a computer keyboard — takes a few seconds to distribute (press that tweet button) and, given the open arms of American conspiracy lunatics — some of whom are actually running for elected office in this coming election –– gets re-tweeted to an audience that tends to believe anything.

So I’ve become vigilant in watching out for these smears.

We have intelligence that the Russians are interfering again in our election.

Yesterday, in the Times’ page 3 feature called Spotlight: Additional Reportage and Repartee From Our Journalists, a group of short posts from Kevin Roose, a Times tech columnist, were re-printed.

Roose is covering top-performing Facebook pages. The Times introduced a selection of Roose’s tweets by writing, “Occasionally, Mr. Roose posts some analysis of the Facebook rankings, as he did Tuesday when several of the top 10 stories involved the same topic.”

Can you guess what that topic is?

Roose’s list of Facebook’s Top 10 performing posts is, in effect, a list of the entities who are eager and willing to spew fakery out to their fans:

  1. Donald J. Trump
  2. Franklin Graham
  3. Ben Shapiro
  4. Ivanka Trump
  5. Fox News
  6. Ben Shapiro
  7. The Other 98%*
  8. Ben Shapiro
  9. Ben Shapiro
  10. Fox News

Here are Roose’s tweets about this, with my bolding:

The #1, #4 and #10 posts on this list — representing more than 700,000 combined interactions — all link to versions of the same news story: a report about a $35 million grant from a DOJ program to organizations that house survivors of human trafficking.

Now, normally, you’d be surprised that a $35 million grant by an obscure federal agency would be the highest-performing story on Facebook. But people who follow this stuff know that stories about human trafficking, *especially* stories involving Trump, are a QAnon bat signal.

And sure enough, if you check which pages shared these stories, you’ll see plenty of QAnon pages like “Follow the White Rabbit” and “The Great Awakening.” They’re using the story as more evidence that Trump is breaking up a child-trafficking cabal run by Democrats.

This is why looking at top-performing links (which Facebook has recently suggested is more accurate than looking at the posts that contain those links) can be misleading. After all, this is an AP story! What’s the matter with the AP? But the way it’s being used is dangerous.

Roose is focusing on Facebook links. I, however, am focusing on the nature of the false stories promulgated by the entities on that top ten list.

And it’s child-trafficking. The Russian default smear. Being flung out yet again in this election, just as it was in 2016, by Trump himself, by his daughter and numbers of his surrogates and supporters.

*The sole liberal group on the list.



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