What the Tech? Russia, Facebook and Fake News
Facebook and Twitter have a warning for their billions of users: Russia is at it again trying to interfere in the U.S Presidential Election.
Facebook introduced new steps to protect the election and will not accept new political ads the week before the election.
Facebook also announced it will place a label on any content shared or posted that seeks to delegitimize the outcome of the election or discuss the legitimacy of voting methods.
Earlier, Facebook took aim at a website that positions itself as a “global news organization” and removed its Facebook page. Peacedata.net, according to multiple reports, hired freelance reporters in the U.S to create content that might have been designed to influence voters.
Facebook says the website was created by the Russian Internet Research Agency which is backed by the Kremlin and responsible for other websites claiming to be news organizations.
Joseph Steinberg who founded “Secure My Social” and is an expert in cybersecurity and social media told us that Russia is widely recognized as a contributor and spreader of propaganda with the intention of meddling in U.S elections.
“The Russians are masters of putting out news that’s false that looks like it’s real,” he said. “It looks like it’s coming from American sources and people don’t understand that this isn’t a newspaper, it’s Russian propaganda.”
“There was a story in the last election cycle that the Pope endorsed Donald Trump. It sounds ridiculous but it did go quasi-viral,” Steinberg said. That news article reached nearly 1 million people on Facebook alone.
The article was deleted from the “news site” that reported it and the website no longer exists.
Contrary to what many people believe, Russian interference into politics has nothing to do with voter fraud but rather, the spread of disinformation intended to influence voter’s decision on which candidate to support.
“In the case of the Russians, it is most likely the dissemination of misinformation,” Steinberg said, adding they may spread information that is true that they want to spread. The third tactic Russia uses is “hacking and releasing material belonging to candidates that they not want to win,” he said.
PeaceData, it was learned, used fake profiles for the freelance journalists creating content for the site. Peace Data released a statement refuting the claims by Facebook and news outlets.
Can Facebook and Twitter stop the spread of misinformation? Steinberg said it’s impossible that any algorithm can act quickly enough. “In the end, there is no way to filter 100% of everything that could be potentially problematic, so people should use, I would say due diligence but it’s really just common sense.”
It’s too easy for anyone to create fake Facebook accounts and websites to spread whatever message they want to reach a mass audience.
“Anybody can claim that anybody said anything,” said Steinberg.
Before sharing content that you find somewhere on the internet, check the source. Is it a website or news organization you’ve ever heard of before? Are reputable news sources reporting it too? Google the news story to find out. Check your local news outlets before sharing the information on Facebook or Twitter.