China · Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Social media firms must tell users impacted by propaganda, MP says

Social media firms must tell users “what”?   Here is what he is saying, followed by What he really means. 

  • You’ve most likely read Russian propaganda.  We don’t know how much and we don’t know the impact on you, but we know you’ve read it.
  • You’ve most likely forwarded Russian propaganda to others. We don’t know how it affected them nor do we know how much you’ve forwarded.
  • We don’t know the impact Russian propaganda had on the US or BREXIT votes. We don’t know the impact Russian propaganda had on theUS or BREXIT votes.
  • We are being forced to appear like we give a darn. 

Here, a member of the British Parliament is eloquently saying “We really FEEL we should do something. We really don’t know what, we don’t know how, and we don’t know the impact Russian propaganda really had on theUS or BREXIT votes, but I’m too embarrassed to say that publicly. 

In other words “we”, the members of the countries of “the West” cannot quantify how much damage Russian propaganda, fake news, trolls, and Russian Active Measures had on “the West”.

We do know Russian propaganda was spread all over social media, it got into the news, it go amplified by social media, it was put out mostly by Russian trolls and helped by trolls from Macedonia, we know there were no reliable sources of news in Crimea and Donbas, and the phrase “fair and unbiased news” was simply a saying and may still be.

But this British MP just has to make a public statement. After all, he’s on a boondoggle in the US, talking with some heads at Google, Facebook, and Twitter and just has to justify the trip to British taxpayers.

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Social media firms must tell users impacted by propaganda, MP says

Damian Collins says voters may have been exposed to falsehoods in run-up to Brexit referendum

The head of a parliamentary inquiry into allegations of Russian interference in the EU referendum has said social media companies should notify British voters who may have been unwittingly exposed to falsehoods and propaganda spread during the campaign.

Damian Collins, chair of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, was speaking after he and other MPs travelled to Washington to grill the global policy leads at Google, Facebook and Twitter.

He told the Observer that he expects the companies to do in Britain what Twitter is planning to do in the US where it says it is “working to identify and inform individually” users who saw tweets during the 2016 US presidential election produced by accounts tied to the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency.

Twitter has said there was evidence of only a very small role played by the so-called troll factory in St Petersburg, and it had so far identified only 49 accounts, which tweeted 942 times and scored 461 retweets and 637 likes.

Collins also cited new research claiming that the social media reach of heavily pro-Brexit coverage by Russia Today, and Sputnik – both Kremlin-backed media outlets – may have had more influence than the two main Leave campaigns.

Some of the Russian company’s most shared media articles on Brexit were found to have achieved 200m “impressions” for tweets.

This compared with 33m for Vote Leave and 11m for, according to 89up, a campaigns agency which has worked on lobbying initiatives for clients including Britain Stronger In Europe, the official campaign to persuade voters to remain in the EU.

“I think that we will also be heavily informed by other research looking into how social media messaging from RT and Sputnik … was shared and who shared it. It could be people who were sharing or distributing their content [that] may also have been linked to other Russian actors like the Internet Research Agency that was spreading fake news,” said Collins.

Mike Harris, CEO of 89up, said the Kremlin-backed news channels had three times more impact on Twitter than both the official Leave campaigns combined.

“The Russian government has two media outlets based in the UK, Sputnik and Russia Today (RT), who ran hundreds of misleading news articles in the run-up to the EU referendum that were seeded across social media. We need parliament to get to grips with a clear and deliberate attempt by an autocratic foreign power to interfere in our democracy,” Harris said.

The data compiled by 89up was sourced from tools provided by Twitter, Facebook, the social marketing company BuzzSumo and other “scraping” methods.