We’ve been overwhelmed with propaganda for decades now. Nations at war usually tried to win the hearts and minds of their respective enemies through communications. In “peaceful times” this line is thin. Western countries are experiencing a disinformation battle through the latest information technologies: the internet and social networks.
The topic is in the spotlight due to recent events taking place in Washington. American policymakers would like to listen to internet tycoons such as Mark Zuckerberg on how social media could have affected the results of last year’s election. The founder of Facebook is in a quagmire after a recent announcement that approximately 126 million Americans received posts created by Russian-government-backed agents in favor of Donald Trump on their Facebook feed. The social network published more than 80,000 posts which were seen by at least 29 million users and shared on their profiles, reaching the aforementioned estimate.
This disinformation campaign is likely to be led by Russia, especially after the conflict of Crimea, once the country was the object of international sanctions. Fake news became an important strategy for Moscow, playing an assertive role in events such as the Brexit vote and French elections when the messages of Emmanuel Macron were hacked and leaked to the web.
Although the main focus of investigations is Facebook, other networks such as Twitter and even Youtube have been performing their due diligence to assess accounts linked to Russia. These internet players are leading the way to a trend that was enshrined by legislation. Policymakers passed a law that requires social media companies to keep track and make publicly available files on electoral advertisement. Also, they will need to set in place practices to prevent foreign individuals or organizations of buying ads that could influence Americans voters.