So, you’ve done a few #FBRParty posts and joined on a grip of other follow trains for the resistance and now you have a bunch of followers and as a good member of the #Resistance you’ve followed all these nice and totally real people back. Here’s the thing. The propaganda farms (lack of a better term here) are surely jumping on those follow trains and maybe even starting some #FBRParty posts themselves. This would be fine if all it did was artificially inflate your follower count and help you get your message out. However, that’s probably not what’s going on here.
If I were running some sort of propaganda organization that targeted Twitter with the goal of spreading disinformation in and about the United States, I would certainly be joining the FBR Party follow trains. First of all, it would allow my accounts to find real people to follow, people who are active on Twitter. But more importantly, as you went through and followed all the people who retweeted, commented and liked the original FBR post, you followed my propaganda accounts. If one were to join a few of these follow trains a day with a fake account starting near the beginning of the hashtag’s popularity just after the election, it’s not unreasonable to think that such an account could have a hundred thousand followers, maybe more. Sure some of the followers are the other “bots” that are doing the exact same thing, but I also would have myself a whole pile of real followers from the #Resistance. And for the time being, I might lay low, retweeting some of the people I’ve followed and maybe even share some legit stories on those fake accounts so they look more or less like part of the crowd.
When the report from the Special Councel drops, it’s likely that all the propaganda accounts will spring into action in the #Resistance. They’ll start spreading false stories, commenting in threads with false information about the contents of the report. This won’t be right wing pushback or “Hillary is the real criminal!” type stuff but simply misinformation designed to get the #Resistance to share it. This will serve one primary function. Muddying the waters. After all, if you’re retweeting false things that were shared by people you follow who you believe are part of the #Resistance, you’ll look just as bad as all the people who were duped by the propaganda bot networks during the election. You will have shared some false information about the reports, which will be used by the broader right and of course by the super rational thinkers in the so called center as evidence for “look, the left is spreading false information too!”. After all, the goal of these propaganda networks is to create an environment where we can’t even agree on a basic set of facts. If they did it to the right, there’s no good reason to believe they will not attempt to do it to the left if they believe there’s an opportunity.
So here’s my prescription, so you can, at the very least, make sure you do not accidentally share some false info from a fake resistance account you followed during one of those FBR Parties. First and foremost. Read the report. The whole thing. Even if you don’t understand some of the legal jargon, read it. If you need help with some of the legal jargon, look it up. And if you still don’t understand a part of it, just keep reading and maybe make notes of what you don’t understand so you can come back to it later. Second. Do not retweet anyone talking about what the report says for at least 24 hours after the report drops. Matter of fact, maybe just kind of avoid Twitter all together. And don’t forget that propaganda accounts are also probably lurking in your Facebook resistance groups. They will likely share some false info about the report, most likely targeted at you and people like you in hopes that false narratives spread faster than analysis of the report, which will take some time. Third. As you read the report, use time you might have otherwise spent talking about it online to call your representatives. Read things to them directly from the report that you find problematic and ask them if they plan on doing anything about it. Even if you believe your representative generally shares your position, a phone call is still in order
The report will likely contain a lot of information about online activities, in fact it almost surely will. You can do yourself a favor and start following the tech press right now if you are not already following them. The Verge tends to be quite good. And don’t forget to follow Kara Swisher, she’s been doing an amazing job of covering Facebook specifically over the years. These are just 2 suggestions. You probably want to get information from a wider variety of sources in tech journalism, I just don’t know that I am the right person to provide you with a definitive list.
And of course, the right wing propaganda machine, including but not limited to domestic right wing media and “highly moderated political accounts”, will be kicking into gear immediately following the release of the report. But we’ve been dealing with them for a pretty long time now and the same old same old whataboutisms will be spread all over social media. In my opinion you can just ignore this problem as it’s something we’ve all seen already and as such it’s easier to spot. The harder thing for most to spot will be the manipulation of the narrative in a way that seems to come from within the #Resistance.
Shit might get very very real very very soon #Resistance and we’re going to need you to look both ways before you cross the street.