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article imageOp-Ed: The latest disinformation threat online? Old news stories

By Karen Graham     Jun 13, 2019 in Internet
Unless you read the caption under the picture below the headline, you would assume this is an image of a large fish kill. And that is my point - Legitimate news stories are playing a role in the spread of disinformation online.
According to the threat analytics firm Recorded Future. they are tracking a relatively new type of social media influence operation that repackages old news in an attempt to stoke discord, fear, and divisiveness.
While the identity of those running the campaign is not known at this time, the group has been dubbed “Fishwrap” by Recorded Future’s chief technology officer Staffan Truvé “since it uses old news for new purposes," according to The Guardian.
A few of the stories appear to be benign, like the one about a knife-stealing crow in Vancouver in 2016. The story got republished - but without the context of when it had occurred - and it did get a number of social media hits.
Facebook has come under intense pressure from a wave of scandals  mainly over the sharing of its use...
Facebook has come under intense pressure from a wave of scandals, mainly over the sharing of its users' data without their consent but also over rampant Russian "fake news" influence campaigns
But more often, the republished stories are meant to create political divisiveness, discord, and public debate and quite often center around elections, in Canada and the U.S. A "fishwrap" story this journalist came across was posted on May 26th by a friend and showed up on my Facebook page.
The heading read: Plans To Release Entire Fukushima Waste Into Ocean Confirmed By Tepco. Because I have been following the Fukushima disaster, I went to the source of the story.
The outcome from posting this story was that it angered a number of people and was "shared" several times. But it was also very obvious that I was the only one to go to the source article. And this is one of the problems we have today on social media and the proliferation of "fake news" stories and this new campaign.
People only read the headline. It's that simple. Rarely does anyone take the time to actually read a story - instead, they draw their own conclusions based on what they think the headline is trying to convey. In this case, the picture accompanying the headline showed a beach full of dead fish.
It appears the Social Consciousness website picked up the story from RT America - a 24/7 TV news channel and Russian government disinformation and propaganda website. RT was previously known as Russia Today. This is where the story originally came from.
Workers construct an ice wall at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Okuma  Fukushima Pr...
Workers construct an ice wall at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo on July 9, 2014
Kimimasa Mayama, Pool/AFP/File
RT America is registered as a "foreign agent" with the United States Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act and is the Kremlin's principal international propaganda outlet.
Sniffing out the fakers
Recorded Future is an internet technology company founded in 2009, based in Somerville, Massachusetts, and Gothenburg, Sweden, specializing in real-time threat intelligence.
The operation discovered by Recorded Future has been going on for about a year and is a network of over 200 accounts. Truvé says, “These could have all been independent, but then we found that they were all using a family of URL shorteners. And all these URL shorteners were running on an anonymous Azure service. So this made us understand that this was a larger campaign.”
The company's report claims: “The fact that the operation has been going on for close to a year, and that it is spending money on numerous domains on dedicated servers, leads us to believe this is not just someone running the operation ‘for the lulz’, but rather a political organization and/or nation-state with an intent to spread fear & uncertainty, and track followers of the posted links.”
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about fake news, Social media, fishwrap, Disinformation, fear and discontent
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