Last week I selected an article about a Russian hacking of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. This week I came across another article about Russian hacking, however this one is a hacking of our political process through social media. In the wake of the horrific school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, hundreds of twitter accounts with links to Russia began posting divisive content meant to sew animosity and political polarization. These accounts are suspected of being ‘bots,’ a programed entity which follows its coding in order to post certain social media content in response to particular news stories. These Russian bots aim to saturate Americans newsfeeds with disinformation and radical opinions in order to plant the seeds of division.
The article discusses how the bots seized onto the tragedy and instantly began posting politicized messages on Twitter such as, #ar15, #nra and #gunreformnow. Various cyberspace experts comment in the article and they communicate how these Russian bots are seemingly-automatically seizing onto news which is potentially divisive to Americans and attempting to exploit it in order to maximize political tension and create instability.
After watching the film Catfish in class, I was very struck by the possibilities for deception that the medium of the internet creates. This phenomenon of Russian bots deceiving the American public by using social media to harp on divisive controversy seems to be an outgrowth of this early example of digital deception seen in Catfish. If only the present-day Catfish was as innocuous as an overweight, discontented mother from Michigan. Instead, we are confronted with a far more daunting adversary, Russia, a nation we tangled with in the Cold War for nearly fifty years. If these new realizations about Russia’s interference in our digital lives teach us anything it should be that the Cold War’s spirit of clandestine meddling is still alive and well in Russia and the internet is their ideal battlefield.