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RS: That Uplifting Tweet You Just Shared? A Russian Troll Sent It

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That Uplifting Tweet You Just Shared? A Russian Troll Sent It

 

Here’s what Russia’s 2020 disinformation operations look like, according to two experts on social media and propaganda.

 

Internet trolls don’t troll. Not the professionals at least. Professional trolls don’t go on social media to antagonize liberals or belittle conservatives. They are not narrow minded, drunk or angry. They don’t lack basic English language skills. They certainly aren’t “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds,” as the president once put it. Your stereotypical trolls do exist on social media, but the amateurs aren’t a threat to Western democracy.

 

Professional trolls, on the other hand, are the tip of the spear in the new digital, ideological battleground. To combat the threat they pose, we must first understand them — and take them seriously.

 

On August 22, 2019, @IamTyraJackson received almost 290,000 likes on Twitter for a single tweet. Put in perspective, the typical tweet President Trump sends to his 67 million followers gets about 100,000 likes. That viral tweet by @IamTyraJackson was innocent: an uplifting pair of images of former pro football player Warrick Dunn and a description of his inspiring charity work building houses for single mothers. For an anonymous account that had only existed for only a few months, “Tyra” knew her audience well. Warrick’s former coach, Tony Dungy, retweeted it, as did the rapper and producer Chuck D. Hundreds of thousands of real users viewed Tyra’s tweet and connected with its message. For “Tyra,” however, inspiring messages like this were a tool for a very different purpose.

 

The purpose of the Tyra account, we believe, was not to spread heartwarming messages to Americans. Rather, the tweet about Warrick Dunn was really a Trojan horse to gain followers in a larger plan by a foreign adversary. We think this because we believe @IamTyraJackson was an account operated by the successors to Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA). Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted the IRA for waging a massive information war during the 2016 U.S. election. Since then, the IRA seems to have been subsumed into Russia’s Federal News Agency, but its work continues. In the case of @IamTyraJackson, the IRA’s goal was two-fold: Grow an audience in part through heartwarming, inspiring messages, and use that following to spread messages promoting division, distrust, and doubt.

 

We’ve spent the past two years studying online disinformation and building a deep understanding of Russia’s strategy, tactics, and impact. Working from data Twitter has publicly released, we’ve read Russian tweets until our eyes bled. Looking at a range of behavioral signals, we have begun to develop procedures to identify disinformation campaigns and have worked with Twitter to suspend accounts. In the process we’ve shared what we’ve learned with people making a difference, both in and out of government. We have experienced a range of emotions studying what the IRA has produced, from disgust at their overt racism to amusement at their sometimes self-reflective humor. Mostly, however, we’ve been impressed.

 

Professional trolls are good at their job. They have studied us. They understand how to harness our biases (and hashtags) for their own purposes. They know what pressure points to push and how best to drive us to distrust our neighbors. The professionals know you catch more flies with honey. They don’t go to social media looking for a fight; they go looking for new best friends. And they have found them.

 

Disinformation operations aren’t typically fake news or outright lies. Disinformation is most often simply spin. Spin is hard to spot and easy to believe, especially if you are already inclined to do so. While the rest of the world learned how to conduct a modern disinformation campaign from the Russians, it is from the world of public relations and advertising that the IRA learned their craft. To appreciate the influence and potential of Russian disinformation, we need to view them less as Boris and Natasha and more like Don Draper.

 

As good marketers, professional trolls manipulate our emotions subtly. In fall 2018, for example, a Russian account we identified called @PoliteMelanie re-crafted an old urban legend, tweeting: “My cousin is studying sociology in university. Last week she and her classmates polled over 1,000 conservative Christians. ‘What would you do if you discovered that your child was a homo sapiens?’ 55% said they would disown them and force them to leave their home.” This tweet, which suggested conservative Christians are not only homophobic but also ignorant, was subtle enough to not feel overtly hateful, but was also aimed directly at multiple cultural stress points, driving a wedge at the point where religiosity and ideology meet. The tweet was also wildly successful, receiving more than 90,000 retweets and nearly 300,000 likes.

 

Click on the link for the full article

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Calling people " Russian trolls" is still a thing ?  

 

  Seriously though, what better way to silence a opinion, thought or meme then to accuse someone of being a foreign agent hell bent on taking away your democracy through deceptive comedy..... What a clown show society has become.

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2 hours ago, JoeJacobyHOForRIOT said:

Calling people " Russian trolls" is still a thing ?  

 

  Seriously though, what better way to silence a opinion, thought or meme then to accuse someone of being a foreign agent hell bent on taking away your democracy through deceptive comedy..... What a clown show society has become.

 

Accurately pointing out that there is coordinated effort by the Russian government to spread propaganda on social media is attempting to "silence an opinion?" 

 

This isn't a particularly controversial idea... we have a lot of details about what went on in 2015-2016, and it's been pointed out numerous times by our intelligence agencies, law enforcement, and the GOP-led Senate Intel Committee that these propaganda efforts have not waned since the 2016 election. They have increased. 

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7 hours ago, JoeJacobyHOForRIOT said:

Calling people " Russian trolls" is still a thing ?  

 

  Seriously though, what better way to silence a opinion, thought or meme then to accuse someone of being a foreign agent hell bent on taking away your democracy through deceptive comedy..... What a clown show society has become.

 

 

^^^ Obviously a Russian troll...

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5 hours ago, Springfield said:

We are doing a fantastic job of tearing ourselves apart.  All the Russians need to do is just nudge us every now and again.

 

It's not really a nudge, they are dictating the narrative. This massive groundswell of populist/nationalist support had a lot to do with their propaganda pushing that message. Not just in this country either, all across Europe too. Here, Trump went from a fringe candidate in the primary to a frontrunner by riding this wave. 

 

I don't personally notice it that much anymore because facebook has changed their algorithms to hide a lot of political posts from people who are on the other side of the aisle... but I noticed it in a big way in 2016. Facebook pages like AmericanPatriots4Trump or whatever pushing content from sites like Breitbart, which at the time (idk if they still do) had a tab at the top of the page for "Black Crime." And suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, these are mainstream GOP ideas. 

 

The GOP base spent decades being conditioned for this sort of indoctrination by being lied to consistently by Fox News, and most importantly being told that every other news source was liberal propaganda. It doesn't help that a *sizable* chunk of them are older, only semi-computer literate, and you've got tons of these folks who spent years sharing the "Fwd: Fwd: Fwd Barack Obama is a Muslim" emails... they now all have facebook pages, and they still have no idea how to apply critical thinking skills to content they are seeing online. 

Edited by skinsfan_1215
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When did people forget the golden rule of the internet:  Don't believe anything you read on the internet. 

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7 minutes ago, Destino said:

When did people forget the golden rule of the internet:  Don't believe anything you read on the internet. 

 

I thought it was: if it exists, there is porn of it. 

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8 minutes ago, PleaseBlitz said:

 

I thought it was: if it exists, there is porn of it. 

That’s rule 34.

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6 hours ago, skinsfan_1215 said:

The GOP base spent decades being conditioned for this sort of indoctrination by being lied to consistently by Fox News, and most importantly being told that every other news source was liberal propaganda. It doesn't help that a *sizable* chunk of them are older, only semi-computer literate, and you've got tons of these folks who spent years sharing the "Fwd: Fwd: Fwd Barack Obama is a Muslim" emails... they now all have facebook pages, and they still have no idea how to apply critical thinking skills to content they are seeing online. 

 

The point of the article (if you read it) is that isn't (all) that it looks like any more.

 

"This tweet didn’t seek to anger conservative Christians or to provoke Trump supporters. She wasn’t even talking to them. Melanie’s 20,000 followers, painstakingly built, weren’t from #MAGA America (Russia has other accounts targeting them). Rather, Melanie’s audience was made up of educated, urban, left-wing Americans harboring a touch of self-righteousness. She wasn’t selling her audience a candidate or a position — she was selling an emotion. Melanie was selling disgust. The Russians know that, in political warfare, disgust is a more powerful tool than anger. Anger drives people to the polls; disgust drives countries apart."

 

We all have biases that can be manipulated.

Edited by PeterMP

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14 hours ago, JoeJacobyHOForRIOT said:

Calling people " Russian trolls" is still a thing ?  

 

  Seriously though, what better way to silence a opinion, thought or meme then to accuse someone of being a foreign agent hell bent on taking away your democracy through deceptive comedy..... What a clown show society has become.

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