“Time is running out.” That was the message from Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) Wednesday at a meeting of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The subject of the hearing, which came 96 days before the midterm elections: Foreign Influence Operations and their use of Social Media Platforms. And the day’s witnesses, which included directors and researchers from organizations including the German Marshall Fund, the Oxford Internet Institute, and New Knowledge, were in agreement: America needs a legislative solution to counter the influence campaigns now underway on social platforms. My colleague Makena Kelly, who watched Wednesday’s hearing, captured the scope of the problem (emphasis mine): Kelly also produced a surprising statistic: far-right and far-left bot accounts produce 25 to 30 times more posts and messages per daythan standard, authentic user accounts. Committee members and panelists said that the flood of content aided in increasing the divide among the American populace with memes and posts surrounding highly emotional issues like the Black Lives Matter movement. “These types of asymmetric attacks — which include foreign operatives appearing to be Americans engaging in online public discourse – almost by design slip between the seams of our free speech guarantees and our legal authorities and responsibilities,” Warner said. This flood of fake content is what researcher Renee DiResta, who testified Wednesday, calls “computational propaganda.” She told the committee that “addressing this asymmetric threat requires a 21st century Information Operations Doctrine, the implementation of a global real-time detection and deterrence strategy, and the cooperation of private… [Read full story]
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