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Russia Used Social Media to Spread Propaganda to Veterans and Troops

russia hack

By Debbie Gregory.

British researchers say they have evidence that Russia targeted U.S. military veterans and active-duty troops via social-media, especially Twitter, to spread anti-government propaganda in the spring before the presidential election.

The study by Oxford University traced the reach of three websites, Veteranstoday.com, Veteransnewsnow.com, and Southfront.org, known to have shown ads and posts linked to the Russian government.

The content led to “significant and persistent interactions” on Twitter over a one-month period, with a theme of news to undermine faith in U.S. democracy.

According to Philip Howard, a professor of internet studies who led the research, the study uncovered an entire ecosystem of junk news about national security issues that is deliberately crafted for U.S. veterans and active military personnel.

“It’s a complex blend of content with a Russian view of the world — wild rumors and conspiracies,” Howard said.

The Oxford study categorized 12,413 Twitter users and 11,103 Facebook users who had messages that referenced or carried content from one or more of the Russian-linked websites from April 2 to May 2, 2017.

On both Twitter and Facebook, Russian fingerprints are on thousands of fake accounts that regularly posted anti-Clinton messages. Many were automated accounts, called bots, that sometimes fired off identical messages seconds apart,  and in the exact alphabetical order of their made-up names

News from the study’s findings comes after Facebook revealed that Moscow purchased online ads that specifically targeted presidential swing states such as Michigan and Wisconsin. Specific demographic groups were also targeted in an attempt to influence the presidential election.

Both the House and Senate intelligence committees are investigating the extent and the success in which Russia disseminated false news or further fanned inflammatory reports.

Given the powerful role of social media in political contests, understanding what Russian did will be crucial in preventing similar attacks in the 2018 congressional races and the 2020 presidential election.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Fighting a “Social Media” Enemy

cyberwar

By Debbie Gregory.

While social media can be a tool of liberation and freedom, it can also be used for the rapid dissemination of harmful information.

Such is the case with homegrown terrorists who support the Islamic State, commonly referred to as IS, ISIS, and ISIL. According to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in some cases, they are “just losers with a keyboard.”

Rather than calling followers to the front lines, ISIS’s social media strategy cultivates them at home in the U.S., Europe, Africa, and Asia. And the result can be devastating, as demonstrated by the violent attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino, California.

Carter called ISIS the United States’ first “social media enemy.” But, the United States will defeat them, he said.

“We have to be ingenious, and that’s why I’m committed to thinking and working and adapting so that we change our techniques and our avenues of attack so they don’t know we’re taking them by surprise, and we’re doing new things to defeat them,” he said. “We’re going to keep doing that until they’re defeated, which they will be.”

Dismantling a website or Twitter feed is a temporary solution, since it’s so easy to create a new one. But in a step to control abuse, Twitter has clarified its definition of abusive behavior that will result in deleted accounts, banning “hateful conduct” that promotes violence against specific groups.

“You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or disease,” according to the revised rules.

The social media company disclosed the changes in a blog post, following rising criticism it was not doing enough to thwart ISIS’ use of the site for propaganda and recruitment.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.