Facebook was used by 'governments' to spread propaganda, says Facebook report

By: ; Date: April 27, 2017

Tags: Facebook » Social Media Warfare » Fake News

A new report issued by Facebook outlines what they know about propaganda spread by 'Governments' through its website. As Facebook notes, the Internet and sites like Facebook give a whole new realm of possibilities for 'information operations'. Information operations are the are spread by 'organized actors' (governments) to distort political sentiment by distorting the truth. Governments have used such strategies for millennia, but of course the global reach of the Internet changes the game. It's clear now that the 2016 US elections were heavily influenced by a stream of fake news, a large part of which was directed by Russia's intelligence services. Indications are that Russia is now focusing on other elections, including in France where an extreme hard-liner who wants to remove France from the EU and NATO could well be elected. Russia's geopolitical needs would be well served if the EU and NATO were weakened. If government-led information operations really are being conducted over social media networks, shouldn't we call it 'Social Media Warfare'?

The report: https://fbnewsroomus.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/facebook-and-information-operations-v1.pdf

Facebook defines this terminology:

Information (or Influence) Operations - Actions taken by governments or organized non-state actors to distort domestic or foreign political sentiment, most frequently to achieve a strategic and/or geopolitical outcome. These operations can use a combination of methods, such as false news, disinformation, or networks of fake accounts (false amplifiers) aimed at manipulating public opinion.

False News - News articles that purport to be factual, but which contain intentional misstatements of fact with the intention to arouse passions, attract viewership, or deceive.

False Amplifiers - Coordinated activity by inauthentic accounts with the intent of manipulating political discussion (e.g., by discouraging specific parties from participating in discussion, or amplifying sensationalistic voices over others).

Disinformation - Inaccurate or manipulated information/content that is spread intentionally. This can include false news, or it can involve more subtle methods, such as false flag operations, feeding inaccurate quotes or stories to innocent intermediaries, or knowingly amplifying biased or misleading information. Disinformation is distinct from misinformation, which is the inadvertent or unintentional spread of inaccurate information without malicious intent.

It's useful to think about each of these so we can learn to recognize them.

False news is the problem. People who've become convinced that 'right' is 'left' or 'up' is 'down' are unable to determine whether or not the President is lying.

Governments lie to their population frequently in order to push political agenda's. The relative honesty of the Obama Administration (they did lie, but not egregiously so) may have lulled us into a false sense of security. When Colin Powell went before the United Nations Security Council in February 2003 accusing Iraq of all kinds of heinous things, every single last thing he said was a lie. Theoretically we the people and our elected representatives should stand up and call bullpuckey when we're told such big lies.

Instead there's a concerted effort to distort the truth, and it's not just the obvious false news websites. Sometimes regular news organizations are spreading fake information as if it is real. Going back to the run-up to the 2003 Gulf War, the New York Times was famously used by the Bush43 Administration as a mechanism for spreading fake news to justify their war.

One thing happening today is websites made to look like honest trustworthy news outlets, whose "news" is full of poppycock.

Such a website by itself wouldn't have much impact -- unless -- some tricks are played to game the system.

In his testimony to Congress in March, Clinton Watts discussed False Amplifiers. He described observing news being emitted by these sites, then a large army of fake Twitter accounts would retweet those news items, the goal being to game the Trending Topics ticker. Regular news organizations seeing a Trending Topic tend to throw reporters at the topic to write a story. Hence, the fake news might make it into regular news by skewing the trending topics.

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