BBC World Service
Disinfo wars and the all-American ‘troll farm’
19 minutes Posted Oct 16, 2020 at 9:32 pm.
Download MP3
Show notes
The 2016 US election was beset by so-called “fake news” – but what’s happening this time around?
Four years ago, fictitious and scandalous news articles emanating from Russian backed troll farms went viral. Some even claim it may have changed the course of the election.
Now a new disinformation battle is raging, but this time the game has changed.
Instead of creating content overseas, a number of campaigns have been discovered enlisting American citizens in creating content designed to destabilise the political landscape.
That’s what happened to Colin Wood, a freelance writer from Binghamton, New York. He was delighted to start writing for a new left-wing website called PeaceData.
But as he soon learned, the site was being coordinated by people connected with Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the notorious troll farm responsible for much of the disinformation created in 2016.
The site’s editors turned out to be completely fictional, their social media profile photos generated by artificial intelligence.
And another disinformation campaign was unearthed, designed and coordinated entirely on US soil.
Turning Point, a right-wing lobby group, paid teenagers to systematically repost messages casting doubt on the legitimacy of the election.
Was the swift discovery of these networks a good news story? Or does it just show that disinformation is now an inextricable part of American politics?
Presenter: Mike Wendling
Reporter: Sam Judah
Picture credit: Getty Images