Tuesday, Aug 21, 2018
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Editorials

Red in the face

ZUCKERBERG-HOLOCAUST

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, has emphasized his company’s need to protect the integrity of elections around the world.

NEW YORK TIMES/TOM BRENNER Enlarge

The Russians are at it again. More likely, the Russians who attempted to influence American elections in 2016, never took a break from trying to undermine U.S. democracy.

This week Facebook told lawmakers in Washington that the company had flagged and deleted eight Facebook pages, 17 Facebook profiles, and seven Instagram accounts the company said were working to disrupt the upcoming midterm elections.

The suspect pages, which Facebook discovered several weeks ago, were created between March, 2017 and May, 2018, and had names such as Aztlan Warriors, Black Elevation, Mindful Being, and Resisters. The accounts leveraged divisive social issues in the United States to attract followers and sow discord.

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And if you think only foolishly gullible social media users would be duped by such efforts, Facebook reported that one of the suspect pages alone had nearly 300,000 followers.

Even beyond spreading misinformation, many of these fake accounts organized real-world events, including a planned Aug. 10 event in Washington that 600 of the page’s followers signed up to attend

The “No Unite the Right 2 — DC” was initially organized by one of the suspect-Russian pages as a counter protest to a white supremacist rally planned for the same weekend. And despite the revelations of its organizers’ origins, American participants have said they plan to carry on with it anyway.

And lest we think the Russians behind these pages are doing all this because they prefer one American political party or ideology over another, keep in mind that the pages were aimed at both left- and right-leaning social media users.

For instance, some of Facebook accounts run by Russian meddlers called for abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and some were organizing a follow-up rally to the white supremacist march last year in Charlottesville, Va.

The Russian forces behind these efforts are not after Democratic or Republican victories in November. What they are after is a weakened America.

The way they achieve this is to use our freedoms against us to create division and distraction. The goal is simply to drive wedges between Americans, regardless of what we believe or who we support politically. When they divide us, they win.

So, the next time you find yourself worked up by a social media feed that is stoking your outrage, whatever your political persuasion, take a step back. You’re probably being played.

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