Digital media drives the post-truth era

prototype-hacker-dark-computerFacebook announced this week that 32 fake users’ pages operated by Russia’s ‘Internet Research Agency’ (IRA) have been deactivated for driving divisive #FakeNews messages to create controversy and stir resentment before the 2018 US midterm elections.

In a separate story this week, FiveThirtyEight statisticians and two Clemson University researchers have uploaded almost 3 million tweets to GitHub originating from accounts also associated with the IRA.

FiveThirtyEight says the “troll factory” creates and distributes false stories aimed to irritate people on both sides of politics and ultimately to divide communities to argue along lines of racism, xenophobia and nationalism.

Clemson Professors Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren designate the Russian Twitter bots as “Left troll”, “Right troll”, “Newsfeed” and “Fearmonger”. “Russia’s attempts to distract, divide, and demoralize has been called a form of political war,” conclude the researchers. The Left Troll bots mimicked behaviour of the BlackLivesMatter movement to divide US Democrats, while Right Troll bots assumed anti-immigrant positions to split Republicans. The researchers say, “This analysis has given insight into the methods the IRA used to engage in this war”.

Here in Sydney, Prof Nick Enfield undertakes research with the University’s Post-Truth Initiative where a digital ‘bullshit detector’ has been developed to reveal fake news, lies and propaganda in social media.

Read more: Washington Post / PBS / FacebookFiveThirtyEight / Post Truth Initiative / Guardian

Image: IAmMrRob / Pixabay CC0

This story is taken from the 3 August 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.