They’re already winning
This morning I was asked to appear on the BBC’s ‘Breakfast’ TV show to talk about Facebook uncovering evidence of what looks like nation-state level interference in the US mid-term elections. In my taxi home, I wondered if the forces looking to divide us had already won.
In my interview, I talked about how Russia aimed to create friction between different political viewpoints during the 2016 presidential election, and the newly discovered accounts appear to be part of a similar attack.
But even if Facebook, Twitter and others take down all the suspicious accounts targeting the mid-terms, the people behind them may have already won.
Someone who saw my interview tweeted at me shortly afterwards to ask why I didn’t mention social media manipulation of Brexit – was I “following BBC orders?” I explained that I wasn’t following any orders, and the Cambridge Analytica scandal involving Brexit was different to nation state-level manipulation. But it hit home just how low the level of trust in other people’s intentions has become.
The Guardian’s Alex Hern tweeted
this morning: “The pretty clear goal of information actors this time round is to create a climate where literally any online discussion ever devolves into accusations and counteraccusations of being a Russian bot, and it’s going to be 100% effective.”
In some cases, it’s already gone that way. Just look at the UK’s Labour party, which is deeply fractured over allegations of antisemitism. The legitimacy of various social media accounts is key to a lot of the arguments there.
If we don’t trust each other’s intentions and motivations, and see duplicity and fakery at every corner, those who wish to tear us apart are already winning.