Here’s Why it Matters in the U.S.
Putin has a long history of running disinformation campaigns. We are seeing it take center stage in Ukraine. Sometimes these campaigns are preparing the battlefield for military action. Other times the motivation is to increase division. This is the kind of disinformation threat Putin deploys in Europe, Latin America, and yes, in the United States. In fact, Putin’s disinformation is right here on our phones, our tablets, and our computers, streaming in our social media feeds.
The truth is this is nothing new. Putin routinely uses social media to promulgate cynicism, distrust, and discord, in order to discourage citizen engagement and increase tensions. Reporting from the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence makes clear that foreign interference, particularly by Putin, seeks to disrupt our civil society. His objective is to distract policymakers and voters from recognizing our common interest and progressing toward solutions to what plagues our country. And it’s no surprise because a United States that’s visibly weakened by internal strife is less able to effectively pursue its geo-strategic objectives and stand up to Putin’s aggression.
So how does Putin do it? His operatives create false news narratives and phony news sites that get shared across social media accounts. The goal here is to earn even more news coverage from more legitimate sources. His target? Influential groups of Americans, like veterans. An investigation by the Vietnam Veterans of America’s (VVA) documented persistent, pervasive, and coordinated online targeting of American servicemembers, veterans, and their families by foreign entities who seek to disrupt American democracy. American veterans and the social-media followers of several congressionally chartered veterans service organizations were specifically targeted by the Putin-controlled Internet Research Agency with paid ads and organically posted content.
Spotting and stopping disinformation in the U.S. is a key part of our mission at Community Conversations – and that’s because it’s a critical part of defending our democracy and our own national security. The plague of disinformation worsens the divisions in American society, We’ve seen the proliferation of mis and disinformation on social media tear our communities apart on every issue, from our schools, health care, vaccines, elections, and more. That’s why we’ve been holding face-to-face conversations to combat misinformation and polarization in communities around the country, particularly with veterans. The first step is calling it out. We must check our sources, our biases, and make sure we think twice before we share content on our feed.
Disinformation didn’t create societal divisions, but it deepens and hardens them. This polarization restricts our ability to engage in America’s real challenges and is worsened by information bubbles and social media. Americans must step away from the constant barrage of false, misleading, and polarizing information and step toward each other to discuss issues and strengthen community connections to find solutions, not fight over facts.