, 16 tweets, 7 min read Read on Twitter
Part of the reason the Russia story matters to the radical Left is that it’s helped reveal the extent to which Russian intelligence have been using sockpuppet accounts to promote both “Left” and fascist positions which benefit them.

We can’t ignore this.

For example, take these charts of Twitter discussion surrounding Black Lives Matter.

Both charts show clusters of interlinked accounts, replying and retweeting each other.

The first shows the two big groups: left-wing and right-wing.

Pretty much as you’d expect: polarized.
Now here’s the same chart, with fake accounts created by Russian intelligence highlighted in orange.

This extremely creepy chart shows two things.

1st, that they played both sides.

2nd, the orange is in the middle of each cluster — the Russian spin was RT’d often by others.
Let’s be clear about what this means.

Russian intelligence *did not invent Black Lives Matter*, nor the polarization this vital social movement created.

Rather, they studied the social tribes forming around or against the movement, then learned to imitate & manipulate members.
Specifically, their goal seems to have been to promote ethnonationalistic discourses which framed problems of structural racism which can (and must) be solved as being due to fundamental ethnic antagonisms that must end in race war.

One particularly interesting element is the way that, when imitating leftists, they would put things in stark race-essentialist terms and use right-wing hashtags (eg “where are all the #BlueLivesMatter people now?”) to make sure right-wingers saw it.

They wanted to make fascists
Russian disinformation has already been linked to fake accounts participating in debates over gun control and vaccines.

Don’t be surprised if evidence eventually comes out that some of the biggest fake accounts emerged around Syria, shaping “anti-imperialist” and fash messages.
Now, there’s already extensive documentation that Israeli hasbara and Chinese online propaganda have used similar techniques.

Do we really think the US government and its shadowy network of intelligence contractors aren’t doing it too?
There’s circumstantial evidence that not only have they done these things — they may have pioneered the techniques.

In docs from the HBGary and Stratfor leaks, these networks of fake accounts are referred to as “persona management.”

They were used against Anonymous & Occupy.
Though there haven’t been many follow-ups to the incredible reporting of @BarrettBrown_ on this, what we have already confirms the existence of US state sponsored fake account and disinformation networks around 2011.

Take a guess if they still exist.

@BarrettBrown_ There’s an optimistic and a pessimistic interpretation of the situation.

First, optimism. The sheer variety of actors using these techniques mean they can’t always be successful.

And the nature of influencing is…fuzzy.

Your spin attempt may evolve in unexpected directions.
@BarrettBrown_ The memes injected into public discourse by the world’s intelligence agencies will mix and mate with those we generate ourselves, then morph into new and ever more unexpected shapes.

Everyone is reacting to everyone else.

No one is in control.

Not Putin. Not the US. Nobody.
@BarrettBrown_ But now the pessimism.

We once dreamed, some of us, that the Internet was a public square where the world’s people could congregate and conspire beyond the reach of our governments.

We thought we could meet new people, different from us, and forge new bonds of solidarity.
@BarrettBrown_ I think for a time this was the case. But now it’s clear we were wrong. It wouldn’t last.

Social media has sorted us into echo chambers and tribes.

This means we only see what our tribe sees.

And it means anyone with a map of the whole territory can manipulate the tribes.
@BarrettBrown_ The problem isn’t unfixable in principle, particularly now that we’ve identified the components.

A free and pluralistic Internet, an international and multicultural Internet with many intermingling worlds living in peace, is possible.

At least, in principle it is.
@BarrettBrown_ In practice, those who own the code & the infrastructure of the Internet, & those who have learned to manipulate it in its current form to profit-making or geopolitical ends, have no interest in creating such a global public resource.

In practice, the dream is dying. Maybe dead.
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