Automated bots and pro-Trump trolls reportedly gamed Twitter by pushing the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo, a call for the Republican-controlled House to release a widely debunked memo by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California who tried to delegitimize Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.
Molly McKew, an information warfare expert specializing in U.S.-Russia relations, explained to MSNBC host Hallie Jackson how the bots and Trump supporters spread the “computational propaganda,” notes Media Matters:
It’s sort of automated content and machine aspects. It is humans. It is Russian. It is American. There’s probably other mixed in there. But the way they now fuse together in this information architecture within social media is incredibly interesting.
And I would just note, because I get — it’ll be a criticism, but there’s also a far-left architecture that is often manipulated in this as well. So it’s not just the right. There is also sort of the Bernie bot contingent which still exists on social media.
But the way that these now work together, they sort of feed and fuel each other, they drive these campaigns, and that’s really the more important question. It’s not is it a bot or not, but it’s was it an automated and amplified campaign for the purpose of manipulative content, and what was the purpose of that campaign?
…And so there is this whole new field of computational propaganda that’s sort of backed by data analytics and other technologies, some of it is AI. Some of it is very basic.
On Twitter, a lot of it is automated Twitter software, sort of things that allow you to repost things very quickly, but the purpose of it is to change perceptions, to change the way that people make decisions in the way that they think, and, ultimately, to change behavior.
I think that’s really what’s been missing in some of these conversations in the last year about sort of fake news, which I think is a terrible term. Aspects of it are not just about disinformation, that they are information warfare, they are meant to achieve specific outcomes.