Last week, it was revealed that some of Russia’s most notorious internet trolls affiliated with a Russian organization that stoked political tensions in 2016 were also the masterminds behind the recent launch of a “news” website called Peace Data. This new site which hired real-life journalists, including Americans, to contribute to its content, has already been tied to the agency which created Twitter and Facebook accounts to stoke political unrest in the 2016 election.
The same date the news broke on this Russian interference, Twitter suspended multiple accounts related to Peace Data, calling them “Russian State Actors.”
The developments confirmed what cyber investigators already knew, that as in 2016, Russian actors were trying to influence the upcoming 2020 U.S. election.
Then on September 3, news agencies obtained a bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security concluding that Russian state media and proxies have been “amplifying criticisms” of voting by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to continue undermining trust in our country’s electoral process.
Make no mistake about it: right now, foreign intelligence is weaponizing social media platforms and messaging, and they are doing it under a cloak of anonymity that allows them to directly influence the political narrative and discourse impacting our country’s democracy. Their goal is to sow dissent among the American populace through a series of sophisticated messaging strategies that have already yielded them significant successes.
Those same cyber terrorists, however, can just as easily target corporate America, or, as witnessed on multiple platforms during the civil and racial unrest unfolding on America’s streets, anyone who takes a political position on a volatile issue. These anonymous “bots” can start flooding a person’s timeline and notifications with intimidating and threatening posts. This is especially true on Twitter, which tilts heavily toward political news coverage.
The most important step anyone can take – business or individual alike – is to educate yourself, to understand where the threats or campaigns are coming from. Continue to use the internet to get your message out and understand that there are actors trying to silence you. But in the event of an actual threat, they need to be treated seriously and acted upon swiftly.
At the Edward David Company, we can provide a myriad of cybersecurity services to assist you.
While some threats may indeed emanate from “cellar-dwellers,” or homegrown cyber experts who sow their own anarchy from within our borders, it remains incumbent upon all of us to understand that foreign interference is real. It is working its way through our social media platforms today and will continue to seek to infiltrate our democracy for as long as it serves the malicious motivations of its authors.
We cannot allow these misinformation campaigns and attempts to coerce, threaten, and change our people’s perceptions, opinions, and way of life to succeed.