Recent revelations of Russia’s ongoing efforts to wage informational and psychological war against America by turning social media platforms into weapons of mass-division will forever change how we view electronic data and further complicate the way we interact with the internet.
Since its advent, the internet has always been a place where unsavory characters can operate in the shadow of relative anonymity. From the time Americans began their first ventures onto the web, we have done so with the caveat of being careful of whom we communicate with.
Just as the customary parental admonishment to not talk to strangers is universally given in the real world, the internet has extended that warning into the domain of cyberspace.
However, the old warning now needs to be appended to “watch out for Russian agents” as well. As intelligence and law enforcement dig deeper into the extent of Russian infiltration into the lives of ordinary Americans via social media, it is becoming more apparent that this is an extremely sophisticated operation.
With the help of cleverly-crafted accounts and unbelievably inexpensive armies of “bots,” Russia has become a formidable adversary in the virtual realm of the internet and social media. Although this realm exists in the ether, real-world consequences of Russian intervention are becoming evident.
As more information is uncovered, it is clear that much effort is being put into what is tantamount to an act of war against America. What makes it even more insidious is that Russia is now waging war against us without even firing a shot.
A closer look reveals not only its sophistication but also underscores the damage Russia is already inflicting on the collective American psyche. The Kremlin has launched a multi-pronged attack consisting of disinformation, misdirection, and hacking, along with real-world propaganda to create a perfect storm of division and mistrust among American citizenry.
As Russia continues spreading its campaign with the help of willing and unwilling participants, it is using social media to attack America’s soft underbelly, which consists of political partisanship, cultural bias, and racism — among other things.
In fact, Russia uncovered this division long ago but has amplified it a thousandfold since the 2016 election, with the unwitting help of social media. The impact of Russian efforts has reached the point where some Americans are even taking aim at the president himself, who they say is either severely incompetent or is purposefully orchestrating the demise of our nation by design.
While Donald Trump has certainly proven to be a most divisive figure within American politics, the prospect of a sitting president being a willing participant in this chaos is as incredible as it is divisive. This only underscores the breadth and depth of Russia’s penetration into Americans’ thought processes.
Even the Republican Party, under whose banner Trump was elected, has not been spared the fallout from Russian attempts to divide and conquer. The situation has become so critical that notable GOP members such as Bob Corker and Jeff Flake are declining to run for re-election, citing a shift in Republican politics.
Whatever this shift in conservative dogma forebodes is anyone’s guess, but it and the continuing interference of Russian propaganda agents could signal a drastic change in American government. This new landscape will now leave many of us asking the question of whether or not the “person” we are interacting with is genuine, a “bot” or possibly even a Russian agent.
[Featured Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]