Time now for good old American skepticism
Russian trolls who have worked to sow discord among Americans may be getting a good chuckle out of an announcement by Facebook.
Officials at the widely used social media company say they will increase efforts to keep Facebook from being used as a propaganda weapon. Facebook will label state-controlled media, will fact-check content more thoroughly and will spend $2 million on “media literacy.”
Elections have changed since 2016 “and Facebook has changed too,” said company CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Indeed, politics has changed — in part because of social media. As President Donald Trump proved in 2016, it can be used effectively to communicate and whip up support.
But the usefulness of social media in setting Americans at each other’s throats has not changed. Russian operatives — and perhaps their counterparts in other countries — used services such as Facebook during the 2016 election campaign. They spread disinformation, affecting both Republican and Democrat candidates.
One of the keys was their ability to disguise themselves. Though we know now that the Kremlin was behind the massive online campaign, it was not obvious then to the project’s targets — American voters.
No doubt Zuckerberg and other social media moguls believe their technology has improved to the point that they can identify posts originating in Russia and other countries. Remember, though, that Vladimir Putin’s minions have improved their technology too.
Only one tried-and-true technique to avoid being manipulated exists. It is that good old American skepticism you may have heard about. It needs to be dusted off for use during the next 13 months. Rest assured, the Russians and others will engage in new attempts to pit us against one another.