Newsday: Stop letting Russia meddle with the United States
The nation learned this week the full extent to which Russia used social media to manipulate the 2016 presidential election. And it did so by exploiting our own racial, religious and political divisions. The detailed accounting of Russia’s malign activity — in a pair of reports commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee — is both astonishing and chilling.
It also is definitive: Russia’s online warfare is real, sophisticated and unrelenting. It mutates as needed and grows more effective. And it continues today.
Ignoring or discrediting such reports guarantees the cyber campaign by Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin will play an ever-larger role in our electoral process. It also fails to understand that such Russian disruptions continue efforts that began in the 1930s with Soviet Union propaganda campaigns intended to inflame America’s racial divisions. Only the methods have changed.
The 2016 campaign spread misinformation, fake news and conspiracies across social media — including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and PayPal. The weaponization of Instagram was particularly extensive.
More study is needed to learn how to prevent attempts by Russians or any political operatives to influence future elections. So are tough regulations; Google, Facebook and Twitter did not provide all data requested by Senate investigators. Social media users must become savvy about who provides information online, and cross-check stories.
Failing to learn from one’s mistakes means repeating them. In this case, that would be a disaster for our democracy.