Fake News Campaigns to Increase in Frequency, Security Experts Say

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ANALYSIS: With the possibility that fake news may have impacted the US election, people are giving a new look to propaganda and misinformation

Did these stories affect people’s perceptions enough to change the outcome of the election? It’s plausible, according to Fillippo Menczer, a professor of computer science and informatics at Indiana University in Bloomington.

“Each piece of misinformation contributes to the shaping of our opinions,” he wrote in an editorial in The Conversation. “Overall, the harm can be very real. If people can be conned into jeopardizing our children’s lives, as they do when they opt out of immunizations, why not our democracy?”


Facebook reaction

Initially, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg downplayed the impact that such stories could have on the election cycle, but then acknowledged the problem of disinformation and information pollution on Facebook. “The bottom line is: we take misinformation seriously,” he said on his regular blog.

Yet, election shenanigans are just the most public face of misinformation campaigns. Governments regularly use propaganda to convince the populace of views that support the nation-state’s interests. And misinformation campaigns could become a more popular way of conducting deniable attacks on rival nations.

On Sept. 11, 2014, for example, residents in Louisiana reportedly began seeing a variety of reports concerning a toxic cloud coming from a chemical plant in Centerville.

A series of Twitter messages targeted journalists and media outlets, claiming to have witnessed an explosion at a chemical plant, and a video was posted to YouTube that claimed that ISIS had taken responsibility for the terrorist act, according to a report in The New York Times Magazine.

Any solution?

The entire event, however, was a fiction. While some officials chalked it up to miscreants with a sadistic sense of humor, most officials eventually concluded it was a Russian disinformation attack testing the impact of false news on U.S. citizens. It’s a type of attack that Russia excels at, Rand’s Paul said.

“That was a Russian weapons test,” he said. “They spent a number of months putting together a slow-rolling package of imagery and content and strings of material that they were going to roll out. They picked their launch moment and fed that material out there, hoping to bounce off some legitimate sites and begin to echo, and they got exactly what they wanted.”

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Originally published on eWeek