A new spate of breathless reports in the MSM informs us that Boris Badenov, er… I mean Vladimir Putin and his network of internet nasties are up to their old tricks again, this time with the help of other foreign terrorist organizations. They’re looking to “meddle” in the United States election this November. That’s a pretty serious charge, so we’d best look into it. Are they hacking into our newfangled electronic voting machines? Awakening some of their deep moles to steal ballots from people’s mailboxes? Bribing people to vote for Trump in exchange for cash payments?
Disappointingly… no. But what they are doing is posting things on social media. Sometimes they do this in the guise of American groups or individuals, spreading disinformation or biased hot takes on controversial subjects. The chief topic where they’re seeking to foment unrest and divisiveness in the United States is the subject of racial unrest. Of course, if they can do a better job of that than the actual American factions debating this subject here at home it will be impressive indeed. (Associated Press)
The tensions coursing through the United States over racism and policing are likely targets for adversaries seeking to influence the November election, lawmakers and experts warn — and there are signs that Russia is again seeking to exploit the divide.
Earlier this year, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pulled down dozens of accounts with names like “Blacks Facts Untold” that had been followed or liked by hundreds of thousands of people. The accounts were fake, created by an organization in Africa with links to Russia’s Internet Research Agency.
Similarly, this week Facebook announced it had removed a network of accounts linked to the IRA that had pushed out stories about race and other issues. The network had tricked unwitting American writers to post content to the pages.
While I find it annoying when non-Americans stick their noses into American politics, I also don’t lose my mind over it. To do so would be a bit hypocritical since we comment on elections and issues in any number of foreign countries here and blast out links to our commentary on social media. Examples include the affairs of Great Britain, France, Canada, Mexico, Israel, and, yes… Russia. I’ve published at least a half dozen articles on Putin allegedly poisoning one of his most influential critics here in just the past month alone.
I will grant you that we do such things under our own legitimate banner and anyone can verify the source as being Salem Media and Townhall. So if the Russians are setting up farms of social media agitators on several continents under made-up group names or fake individual identities, that should certainly be a red flag (no pun intended) in terms of their legitimacy and the accuracy of their content.
But again, we’re talking about Twitter and Facebook posts here. Nobody is holding a gun to your head and making you follow these accounts. If they post material that turns out to be absolute horse-hockey and you keep following them and lapping it up, that says more about your own discretion than the deceivers pulling off the hoax. I would also note there are countless social media users here in the United States, some with very large followings, that regularly post deceptive if not blatantly false information relating to our elections. And they represent interests on both the left and the right.
But as long as their hot takes are being put forth as opinions and interpretations, we don’t expect the government to squelch their speech. (That job is left up to Facebook and Twitter, primarily if the person is sympathetic to conservative causes.) I have no doubt that the leadership of every country around the world has their own preferences as to who they would rather see as the next President based on how they imagine their relationship with them would play out. We’re currently told that the Russians prefer Trump while the Chinese would rather have Biden. (I mean, they already “have” one Biden in their pocket, so why not try to collect the whole set, right?)
The point is that hacking into our election infrastructure would be one thing. Spewing nonsense on social media is quite another. We should exercise a little restraint before we begin running around telling everyone the sky is falling.