A new nonpartisan group launched on Tuesday aims to inform Americans about the “grave” national security threat posed by Russia’s ongoing interference in U.S. affairs, The Hill reports:
The Committee to Investigate Russia – InvestigateRussia.org. – aims to “help Americans recognize and understand the gravity of Russia’s continuing attacks on our democracy” by providing “a comprehensive and easy-to-understand website, extensive social media campaign, daily newsletter, expert analysis, and breaking news updates” … The new campaign plans to pull together “hundreds of sources to connect the dots” of the Kremlin’s meddling efforts so that users can access the widespread data in one central online site: InvestigateRussia.org.
What exactly has changed since the Cold War to make foreign propaganda far more dangerous today? Samantha Power asks in The New York Times. The sheer quantity of shares that misleading stories get on Facebook is staggering, notes Power, the United States permanent representative to the United Nations from 2013 to January 2017:
Using a database of 156 election-related news stories that fact-checking websites deemed false, economists from New York University and Stanford University determined that these false stories had been shared by American social media users 38 million times in the three months before the 2016 presidential election. Russia has keenly exploited our growing reliance on new media — and the absence of real umpires. Last year the Russian government supplemented the growing reach of its state-owned, English-language media outlets — RT and Sputnik — by employing a network of trolls, bots and thousands of fake Twitter and Facebook accounts.
“The bipartisan Alliance for Securing Democracy, meanwhile, has begun tracking and exposing Russia’s extensive disinformation efforts,” Power notes, adding that the Alliance’s “new dashboard (right) is evocative of a series of special reports by the United States State Department that in the 1980s sought to undermine Soviet fake news by exposing Moscow’s attempts to influence the American public.”
U.S. lawmakers want the U.S. communications watchdog to investigate whether the Russian government-funded radio station and news site Sputnik violated government regulations by broadcasting programs aimed at influencing U.S. policies and elections, Reuters adds.
The U.S. Senate on September 18 strongly backed a $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act that calls on the Pentagon to fight Russian propaganda that includes a provision broadening the government’s ban on using Kaspersky Lab software in government computers, RFE/RL adds:
The bill directs the Defense Department to report to Congress on Russian attempts to spread “disinformation or propaganda, through social media applications or related Internet-based means, to members of the Armed Forces with probable intent to cause injury to the United States or advantage the Government of the Russian Federation.” That provision reflects growing alarm in Washington about Russian propaganda efforts ever since а U.S. intelligence report released in January concluded that Russia engaged in a hacking-and-propaganda campaign to try and sway the presidential election.
A delay in [the U.S. Congress] probing the possibility that Russians had used Facebook’s multibillion-dollar advertising system in its propaganda campaign has frustrated outside experts, who say the company has been slow to recognize the seriousness of the issues, The Washington Post reports.
“All I can say is, ‘Wow,’ ” said Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who studies social media companies’ impact on society and governments. “Given the scale of the misinformation campaign, it’s pretty obvious that ads would be a vector. They are an ad company.”
According to a declassified report issued in January, U.S. intelligence analysts concluded Sputnik was part of the massive Russian intelligence campaign to spread misinformation during the 2016 election, CBS adds.
Former Sputnik journalist Andrew Feinberg said the U.S. has opened itself up to a “kind of hybrid warfare, this kind of information warfare, because we allow them to use the First Amendment and our country’s commitment to a free press against us because we’re very reluctant to go to an organization like Sputnik that’s operating as a news agency and say, ‘Well you’re not really a news agency, you’re propaganda.'”
The world is watching
GMF experts from both sides of the Atlantic explain what is at stake in Germany’s upcoming federal elections, which will have significant consequences well beyond Germany’s borders, says the Alliance for Securing Democracy. For a detailed analysis of the German election, see GMF’s Senior Fellow Joerg Forbrig’s recent piece in the American Interest. (GMF)
UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights group, challenged the UN’s Special Rapporteur Idriss Jazairy for claiming in one of his reports that the Russian Federation is a victim of human rights violations due to the “unilateral coercive measures” imposed by the United States and the EU, Kremlin Watch adds. Jazairy received $50,000 from the Kremlin for writing the report.