Disinformation, fake news and hoaxes – ways to spot manipulation and propaganda

Financial gain

False or distorted news is often created solely for profit. The articles are then widely shared on social networks, from where they attract more readers to disinformation websites. When site operators attract enough people, they earn from displayed ads. With an overview and hundreds of thousands of crowns per month. In order for the article to be “opened” by as many people as possible, so-called clickbait is also used, which is a tempting but misleading headline.

Disinformation also uses other options. They directly encourage their readers to send money, under the false argument that they themselves are bringing the truth.

Wealth in the Balkans

Prior to the US presidential election in 2016, a group of young people in the North Macedonian city of Veles, which has more than 40,000 residents, set up several websites in English, where they published offensive and fictional texts aimed primarily at Donald Trump’s opponent, Democrat Hillary. Clinton. Americans massively share articles on social networks, and thanks to the advertisements shown, young people in places with an average monthly salary of 9.5 thousand crowns (4.8 thousand dollars per year) easily earn 10 thousand US dollars per year. month. At the same time, young Macedonians have no intention of influencing elections in the US, they just want to make money.

With their activities, disinformation targets people in deteriorating life situations and disgruntled and frustrated individuals. One of their main motivations is the prospect of profit, among other things, in the form of contributions from the audience.

2021 Annual Report Security information service

Political influence and information warfare

The spread of disinformation can be a direct part of information warfare. Hybrid or information warriors attack the very foundations of democratic societies and their institutions. They seek to reach a state where people perceive reality or truth as only one possibility. They “weed” the space with different versions of certain events or situations so that people feel that no one really knows how things really are.

What is hybrid warfare?

Hybrid warfare is a form of conflict in which the aggressor uses a combination of traditional military force and non-military means to achieve his goals. One method of such warfare is disinformation. A current example is the war in Ukraine, where Russia uses modern propaganda methods and tries to influence the information space not only on its territory, but also beyond its borders.

Disinformation motivated in this way usually comes from the workshops of adversary states and non-state groups. They can also use their intermediaries in the domestic scene of the country they are targeting for deployment, and incorporate a variety of hybrid communication and influence techniques. It might even include espionage. Disinformation is most often used by authoritarian powers like Russia and China to gain political influence.

“It is clear to the Kremlin that from an economic and military point of view it cannot compete with the West or with China, which makes information warfare more important to it,” explains Ondřej Soukup of Czech Radio, which covers Russia. According to him, Moscow has been waging a relatively massive information war since at least the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

“It has special agents for this, the most famous of which is called the troll factory in St. Petersburg. Initially, it was, for example, a marketing company that currently works for the state,” Soukup explained where the false information was created. The goal is not to promote one opinion, but to create an information mess where people don’t know each other. They are trying to break up the unity of Western society, radicalize and exaggerate the problem.

How important is disinformation for Russia and where does the information war take place?

What is a troll farm?

Troll farms are paid, organized groups of people who maintain fake social media profiles, participate in discussion forums and write blogs to promote products and services, politicians and political parties, or spread ideology or propaganda. Troll Farms, which are often already operated by artificial intelligence, have the most common links with Russia and its strategy for waging information wars and spreading Russian propaganda.

The most famous troll farm in St. Petersburg

Russian Trolls from St. Troll Farm Petersburg is headquartered in an old arms factory in St. Petersburg. They are trying to manipulate public opinion to support the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Farms supported Putin’s invasion of Ukraine by manipulating public opinion polls and abusing discussion on media websites and under profiles of world leaders on social networks such as Twitter and TikTok.

The ranch received wider attention before the US presidential election, when its influence on the campaign came to light. According to the indictment handed down in February 2018 by a US federal grand jury, he, along with two other Russian organizations and 13 Russian nationals, were charged with impairing or obstructing the lawful functioning of the US government.

“Forbidden” truth.

Providers of disinformation may live with the belief that there is some kind of banned and censored truth that elites are uncomfortable with. Motivated by an innocent desire to uncover this “truth,” they then pass on this information in the good faith that it will help others. Some spread misinformation out of passion for an idea or organization. And there are also cases when people share misinformation just for fun or for “cheap” likes. However, even such behavior can cause great harm.

Julia Craig

"Certified bacon geek. Evil social media fanatic. Music practitioner. Communicator."

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