A few weeks after Rogue Media Labs first published a report explaining how the Kremlin has started banning all active duty military personnel from social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, a new report has surfaced exposing how foreign actors have begun impersonating US Military veterans across social media. Entitled “Foreign Entities Imitating American Veterans Organizations and Sowing Discord with Falsified or Manipulated News” and prepared by the Vietnam Veterans of America, the 11 page report documents how unknown actors have actively begun trying to impersonate and/or infiltrate online groups tied to various US military veterans with the intent of sowing hostility and misinformation.
Presented to the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security last month, the report explains how “similar to widely-reported stories of “troll farms” sowing discord during the 2016 election cycle and specifically targeting veterans, these online entities operate by first appealing to patriotic, Americans, and once they have gained the trust of tens or hundreds of thousands of followers, they begin spreading manipulated and divisive news and other political content.” Considering that this sort of activity only seems to be on the rise across 2017-2018, the Vietnam Veterans of America is claims that getting out ahead of this issue may be “a matter of National Security” headed into the future
View Full Report Here: https://docs.house.gov/meetings/IF/IF00/20180411/108090/HHRG-115-IF00-20180411-SD014.pdf
Describing how these troll pages/accounts operate, researchers explain how “while most of these pages share junk memes of no significance, the page did occasionally share deceptive or manipulated news and political content that was likely shared to incite an emotional reaction from veterans.” This is interesting to note because in 2017 I specifically remember drafting a report teaching members of the public how to spot troll accounts and/or bots operating online, describing how nearly 100% of the time bot social accounts almost exclusively share inciteful memes just to get people riled up and emotional. Adding that if a social account shares nothing but politically charged memes, has thousands upon thousands of followers and makes random replies to comments that have nothing at all to do with the original comment posted, then in all likelihood you are dealing with a bot account – something seemingly verified by the Vietnam Veterans of America‘s Senate report.
You might also be surprised to know that almost all of the accounts implicated in the report were not created by “the Russians.” For example, the largest troll account uncovered by researchers was actually registered Anonymously through a .eu domain in Bulgaria. Other accounts investigated by the group traced back to the Eastern Europe and Ukraine. Sadly enough though, the group says that they have stopped reporting pages/trolls to Facebook for the time being. Not only has reporting pages been unsuccessful, but the group also notes that “simply shutting down pages does not prevent others from rising in their place, nor does it allow us to find out who is behind them or what their motivations are.” So, much like the FBI’s stance on ISIS terror accounts, Vietnam Vets feels as though it’s more important to keep these accounts active and monitor their activity to gather intelligence, rather than shut them down and force them offline – at least for the time being.
Full Letter To Senate: