Protect democracy against social media manipulation

By

Opinion

October 16, 2019 - 10:42 AM

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leaves The Merrion Hotel in Dublin after a meeting with politicians to discuss regulation of social media and harmful content on April 2.

The United States may not be the only target of Vladimir Putin’s social media warfare, but many Americans do seem particularly vulnerable to Russian agents’ tricks.

Consider Russian operatives’ malicious use of social media platforms to upend our democracy and influence the 2016 election, outlined in a Senate Intelligence Committee report released last week. Despite social media companies’ efforts to stop the malicious activities, researchers say the Russian interference is ongoing. It would be naive to think Russia is the only entity attempting to destabilize American society using tweets and posts.

According to the report, the St. Petersburg-based internet Research Agency flooded social media with fake news, divisive content and targeted advertising that extended far beyond promoting absurd fantasies about Trump’s beneficence and alleged evils of Democratic contender Hillary Clinton. The lies left verified news accounts in the dust —with intentionally false articles outperforming top stories from 19 major news outlets on Facebook in the final months leading up to the 2016 election, according to the report.

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