Kremlin Trump Trolls & Bots Scrutinized by Congress

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Cheri Jacobus

There is no hiding any longer. The fake social media accounts -- many from Russia and Iran -- that have infested our political system and have been used as bullying tools by the likes of Breitbart, InfoWars, The Federalist, Trump, his white supremacists and FOX News are now out in the open. The jig is up. At least, if Congress does their job.

Twitter co-founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey to Congress today regarding Russia, Iran and other bad actors using twitter to promote damaging hoaxes: "We certainly have evidence to show they have utilized our system and gamed our system to amplify information."

Facebook executive, Sheryl Sandberg: Facebook recently "took down 650 pages and accounts from Iran. Some were tied to state-owned media"

Senator Richard Burr (R-NC): "Weve identified the problem, now its time to identify the solution... whatever the answer is, weve got to do this collaboratively and weve got to do it now."

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) "The bad news, Im afraid, is that there is still a lot of work to do.... I believe Congress is going to have to act."

While the fake social media accounts from foreign governments and other bad actors have played so many for fools, they continue to influence media coverage, guest bookings and provide false reflections of the truth, just as they did during the Republican primaries and beyond.

The fake twitter accounts manipulated politics by giving news execs the impression an idea, candidate or political commentator/personality was more popular or less popular than they actually were, often providing a platform to people for whom no platform should exist. Right-wing media was pushed into supporting gadfly candidate Donald Trump early on, believing those social media clicks, comments, likes and retweets were real. Voters were also tricked into believing there was a "movement" long before there actually was one, and as a way to build one based on fake support. (Trump had so much trouble finding real supporters to attend his campaign launch in one of the busiest places on the planet, even as a sideshow drop-by on 5th Avenue open to the public, that he reportedly paid actors $50 apiece to show up and "fake" support him.)

After then-FOX News host Megyn Kelly asked Trump a few pointed and very fair questions in a debate, then FOX chief Roger Ailes was reportedly shaken to his core at the rebuke FOX received from what he believed (at that time) were real FOX viewers on Twitter and Facebook. Likewise right-wing talk radio and others. This weighed greatly in their future programming, booking and editorial decisions.

Ailes understood the power he held, famously deciding GOP primary candidate Marco Rubio's fate with the order, "Kill him." And CNN chief Jeff Zucker, who made his career when as head of entertainment at NBC (notably NOT a news exec) he greenlit Trump's reality show "The Apprentice" told CNN staff to "keep the cameras on [Trump] until the eyeballs leave."

Unknown, low-level political operatives (or fake political operatives with dubious bios) have been able to create a false fan base in order to score TV bookings, their analysis virtually meaningless. Media heads and journalists are also prone to treating falsely-promoted "experts" as the real thing, based on fake twitter follower numbers, and twitter or Facebook activity from fake social media accounts. Reputations are harmed or ruined by false information spread around on social media and by the fake news sources that utilize social media (and the fake accounts) while never revealing their source of funding as they pretend to be "real" news organizations, pumping propaganda to the unaware masses.

The more gullible in our ranks who tend to generally "follow the crowd" of popular thought and opinion, and importantly, who to vote for in an election, were often following a fake crowd.

Jack Dorsey of Twitter can fix this at any time, by requiring verification of every user. Twitter can retain its current "blue check mark" for verified users of certain note, and use another code for all other users, allowing one account per person and no anonymous accounts permitted, except for "read only" mode -- no participation. Similarly, so can Facebook. Certainly their advertisers now understand the fake accounts are not helping them.

There are simply no more excuses for this dangerous fraudulent practice of fake and multiple social media accounts to continue.


Cheri Jacobus