A report by Natasha Korecki in Politico yesterday detailed the fact that a large, coordinated misinformation campaign is already underway on social media to undermine the 2020 Democratic candidates and create division among Democratic voters.  The culprits aren’t entirely clear but the method is a more sophisticated version of the 2016 meddling determined to be coordinated by Russia. Though not a surprise, the misinformation effort is a nauseating reminder that Trump did nothing to halt the ongoing Russian attack on our social media and elections, so we have to continue to vet the stories and memes we want to forward or share, and resist material that is bogus.

…data extracted from Twitter and from other platforms, as well as interviews with data scientists and digital campaign strategists, suggests that the goal of the coordinated barrage appears to be undermining the nascent candidacies through the dissemination of memes, hashtags, misinformation and distortions of their positions.

Link to full article:

https://www.politico.com/story/2019/02/20/2020-candidates-social-media-attack-1176018

Just yesterday on Facebook I noticed a meme shared by a conservative friend that said “Were any of you aware that ALL Democrats voted AGAINST the 2.8% Social Security cost of living increase?”  Googling that line took me to the fact-checking website Snopes.com, which rated the claim as “FALSE” and noted that Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are not voted on by either party but are made by formula every year thanks to long-standing legislation.

It’s often tempting to go on the attack when something clearly false or outrageous pops up on a social media timeline.  But it’s always better to check the facts first, and then just report the facts without making assumptions about motives or insulting someone’s intelligence, especially if we don’t know them.  I’ve had a lot of success simply pasting a link to a Snopes review (or other fact checking sight) in the comment box of a bogus social media post. Here’s a webpage with a list of the ten best fact-checking sites:

https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/2016/07/20/the-10-best-fact-checking-sites/

It’s also important to check the veracity of the things we want share and forward.  More than once I’ve forwarded something that turned out to be flat-out wrong.  So a quick search can help us to refrain from spreading the infection of misinformation, and it also saves the time we would need to spend trying to delete a mistake or apologize to friends and others later on.

The amount of outrageous material floating around on social media originating from Russian troll farms is astonishing, and now their strategy seems to be to find real people in our country who are pushing the views they want to push, and helping to be an echo chamber.  They will direct their bots to like and share real posts in a big way, which amplifies messages that would otherwise never be noticed.  So we have to make sure we aren’t the unwitting tools of Russian hackers, nor are we consuming messages that are, in fact, the false fruit of a large foreign intelligence operation.

A website called Securing Democracy is working on a tool (called “Hamilton 68” in the form of a dashboard) that will aggregate and display the most recent Russian propaganda items.  Check their site from time to time to see whether they’ve finished it:

https://securingdemocracy.gmfus.org/

As we approach the 2020 election, we will surely be hammered with all varieties of misinformation and it will be critical for activists to discern what is legitimate and what is bogus.  Anything that seeks to divide Democrats or smear particular Democratic contenders should be treated as false until proven true.

Stay alert and keep resisting…

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