Shaun Riordan discusses why adding an extra €1 million per year to the East Stratcom Unit won't be much help.
It’s 1 pm, and Current Time America is on the air. The program is one of two stateside productions of Current Time, a 24-7 Russian-language TV channel headquartered in Prague. But this isn’t some Euro import or a start-up aimed at Russian expats—it’s run by the U.S. government. Launched in February, the project is a collaboration between two venerable broadcasters, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. After Russia annexed Crimea, says Daisy Sindelar, the network’s director, “we realized that we were losing a messaging war.”
In addition to formal public diplomacy mouthpieces like Russia Today and Sputnik, Russia employs armies of paid trolls and botnets to generate false information that can later be circulated and legitimated as if it were true. Then, in 2016, Russian military intelligence went a step further, by hacking into the private network of the Democratic National Committee, stealing information, and releasing it online to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy.
Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election, and its suspected hacking of French President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign servers, should surprise no one, given President Vladimir Putin’s (mis)understanding of soft power. Before his re-election in 2012, Putin told a Moscow newspaper that “soft power is a complex of tools and methods to achieve foreign policy goals without the use of force, through information and other means of influence.”
Facebook’s management has been reluctant to accept responsibility for a flow of fake news via FB that seems to have played a significant role — just like the Kremlin’s cover campaign of bots, hacking and leaks — in last year’s election. If we are determined to go after Russian “bots” and trolls, shouldn’t we also demand more accountability from those who influence greatly the news we are “fed” via social media?
Mark Dillen on Russia, social media, and information warfare.