Breaking news! If you live in the UK, your country is under attack. If you live in France, your country is under attack. If you live in America, your country is under attack. All by a known foreign, hostile power. The west is still, under attack. Only this time guns, bombs and tanks aren’t the weapons being used act of terror. Instead our enemy is using something far more powerful and far more dangerous. Information.
A recent academic study found 13,493 suspected “bot” accounts that peddled pro Brexit messages on social media were active in the run up to the vote. All carrying fake stories to help promote their agenda. It doesn’t help that the Leave campaign openly embraced these falsehoods, even at one point advertising them. Like for example “350 million pounds” a week could be put into the NHS.
In France, just before the vote, nine gigabits worth of emails from the Emmanuel Macron campaign for president, were released in an attempt to embarrass the candidate. The hackers were too late, and in this case. Macron won.
Probably the most polarising example of the aggressive misinformation campaign was in the United States. The democratic candidate for president, Hillary Clinton, faced fake news stories peddled on social media. Her campaign manager Jon Podesta and the DNC were hacked. And leaked to the press. This was the most calculated attempt we have seen so far. Whenever her opponent, Donald Trump put his foot in his mouth, or embarrassed himself, embarrassing emails would be leaked.
So who’s doing it? If you ask any intelligence agency in the US, or in the UK, or in France, you will get the same answer. Russia. Russia. Russia.
Things we know. Fact, in Saint Petersburg there is a government building with government employees, with one job. To obstruct the democratic process. People who do nothing all day except write fake articles about how Hillary Clinton is secretly a greedy, murdering, paedophile who needs to be put in jail. Fact, Donald Trump Jr and Trump Campaign officials met with Russians to get dirt on the Clinton campaign and lied about it. Mysteriously they softened their stance on Russian sanctions.
Facebook, Twitter and Google have been grilled by MPs and senators for their part in helping promote the miss information campaign. Saying that if people are going to get their news from social media then it must be held by the same standard as news outlets. Not surprising after Facebook claimed these fake news bots reached as many as 100 million people.
What can be done? We could join the fight in educating people to be aware of fake news. Israel and Italy have already dedicated themselves to teaching kids in school how to identify fake news. I don’t claim to know the answer, but fake news should be taken seriously. Because for all you know you’re being manipulated by a hostile power.