We’re awash in misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda. Calling it ‘fake news’ trivializes the issue, and it’s not helpful. It’s propaganda. It’s a concerted attempt by a variety of actors to influence outcomes, by speaking to demographic groups that have a predisposition to believe certain things – when you tell someone something that verifies their existing world view, they’re willing to believe it without further examination and the introduction of facts that indicate otherwise are summarily rejected.
A study has been performed on this: A group of Dartmouth researchers have studied the problem of the so-called “backfire effect,” which is defined as the effect in which “corrections actually increase misconceptions among the group in question.” http://bigthink.com/think-tank/the-backfire-effect-why-facts-dont-win-arguments
This is the social science that’s being weaponized, to sow distrust of the US government, and divide the population along these lines of world view.
Social media, according to the Pew Research Center, is where >60% of people get their “news”.
Given that it’s possible to insert propaganda into the feed, which will be forwarded, shared, liked and repeated within echo chambers, this is clearly a mechanism for fomenting that division and distrust. But can anything be done about it? YouTube, in particular, is filled with “news” channels that promote patently crazy, conspiratorial stories.
Politifact, Snopes, and other “fact checkers” are being brought to bear, to generate a true/false index that might be helpful, but which can also be perverted. How long until one group repeatedly reports a story as false, which has some of those facts that serve to simply harden one’s position? “This can’t possibly be true – everyone report it as fake.” Is it then censorship?
Here’s a group that wants to mark news as propaganda.
Now, who’s behind all this? It’s hard to know with any certainty, but the intelligence community is pointing fingers at Russia with some vigor. Regardless, the propaganda mechanism seems to be taking advantage of convenient groups that have a bent toward anarchy, and are easy to finger. Take this example from our daily Critical Informatics IT Security News Blast: Hacktivist or State-actor? Behind the Mask of Threat Actors
For many organisations, the big deception threat today is government hackers pretending to be concerned hacktivists, leading you to believe your adversary is an individual when it can actually be the cyber-arsenal of an adversary state. ThreatConnect has come up with a word to describe those fraudsters employed by governments to pursue political objectives online while pretending to be public spirited individuals, calling them faketivists.
The group known as Anonymous fits that bill perfectly. Not that this is authoritative, but here’s a bit of analysis I’ve done, reviewing some various outlets that seem to be aligned on a single point: that the CIA is going to perform a coup against the president-elect:
Fake Anonymous YouTube channel, with high production-value videos that are coming out at high frequency. Fake, because they are subtly promoting a political point of view, and Anonymous is neutral from their public statements: Anonymous: ALERT: FBI Counter CIA Coup Against President Trump
I’ve also seen a story on RT (Russia Today), which suggests exactly the same thing (although cannot locate it now).
So why are RT, the Alex Jones conspiracy channel, and a group hiding behind the Anonymous mask all saying the same thing? Seems like there is coordination there.