How bland positive messages help Russian trolls spread disinformation

The Internet Research Agency has learned that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

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  • When we read examples of fake news headlines from the 2016 election, they seem blatantly false.
  • However, the data shows that most Russian trolls were mostly sharing posts meant to camouflage their actions, with a small percentage of posts sharing fake headlines.
  • As the 2020 elections approach, researchers are discovering that Russian trolls are becoming more sophisticated and savvy in how they spread disinformation.
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Brianna Soukup/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Whether you're a conservative or a liberal, you have most likely come across a political hashtag in an article, a tweet or a personal story shared on Facebook.

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Billions of fake accounts: Who's messaging you on Facebook?

The social media company's recent transparency report claimed that it had taken down a staggering number of fake accounts — but it's unlikely they're catching them all.

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  • Facebook's recent transparency report revealed that it took down 5.4 billion accounts in 2019 thus far, a huge jump from 2018's 3.3 billion removals.
  • Facebook claims that this jump in take-downs is due to improved methods for identifying fake accounts, but it has to be assumed that some are still slipping through the cracks.
  • What are the primary activities of these fake accounts?
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Venetian council room floods after councilors reject climate proposals

In a metaphor too apt to be made up, the council has been forced to relocate until the flood waters recede.

(Photo: Andrea Zanoni/Facebook)
  • The City of Venice is currently enduring the worst flooding to strike it in 50 years.
  • The mayor has declared it to be a result of climate change.
  • During a debate over next years budget, and right after rejecting environmental proposals, the main chamber of the regional council flooded.
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Does our society incentivize disinformation?

Is anything clear in the age of disinformation?

  • Disinformation is rampant in human behavior, from ancient tribes hiding sources of water and gold from one another, to poker players bluffing and soccer players faking. Information is strategic.
  • The current information ecology is controlled by large tech companies whose goals may be radically different from the goals of the individuals using the platforms.
  • When it comes to critical issues like climate change, nuclear weapons stocks, and even foreign interference in U.S. elections, there is very little clear information, which impedes our decision making—that information scarcity is devastating when our survival as a species hangs in the balance.
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