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“Preparing For A World War of Lies and Half-Truths” *


[This commentary relates to only one of  several  overlapping existential threats that social media/digital communications now present to global society. Others: assault on privacy, cyber hacking, undermining the journalism profession.] 

Is that headline hyperbolic?
Not if you reflect on how The New York Times columnist Kevin Roose, and others, support such assertions in great detail. Roose, in  “Social Media’s Forever War”  :
“On Monday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a pair of sweeping reports illuminating how effectively Russian influence operations weaponized social media during the 2016 presidential election …    
“These reports showed conclusively that Russia’s Internet Research Agency used every digital attack surface available — whether it was Facebook or Instagram where their posts got millions of interactions … the 2016 election was the Pearl Harbor of the social media age: a singular act of aggression that ushered in an era of extended conflict.”

Roose and others have also surfaced even more disconcerting evidence. Russia continues to wage this cyber conflict and the U.S. government still has no lead federal agency charged with securing America from cyber attacks on elections and other foreign influence campaigns.

Instead, counter-intuitively, the Trump administration this week added to its long list of policies favorable to Russia: 


 1. Trump decided to terminate sanctions on Russian aluminum company Rusal within 30 days.

 2. Declaring “victory” over ISIS, he ordered a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of US troops from Syria despite widespread criticism from U.S. senators (many Republican), military experts and allies.


 An even more informed expert on the Russian cyber attacks on America, Renee DiResta, an author of one of the Senate Committee’s sponsored research projects on the subject, put it bluntly in a Times Op-Ed this week “What We Know About Russian Disinformation”  .

In sum: “The picture that emerges is grim.”

Ms. DiResta, reflecting on evidence that Russia is continuing its “enthusiasm for modern information warfare”, cautions:

“The hard truth is that the problem of disinformation campaigns will never be fixed; it’s a constantly evolving arms race. But it can — and must — be managed …

“The landscape of disinformation is, frankly, a grim one. Russia has already signaled its intention to continue such operations. Terrorists strategically counter attempts to kick them off popular platforms. Domestic ideologues adopt the manipulative distribution tactics used by foreign propagandists.

“But there is some cause for hope … With discipline, rigor and broad collaboration, we can meet this challenge, establish standards, protocols and governance that will defend the integrity of our information.”

One proposal: A comprehensive U.S. “national cyberdoctrine.”

Perhaps momentum for true national defense in this new kind of “world war” will build soon after January 2nd.