During the 2016 presidential election, hundreds of fake sources used social media to spread fake news. Many of these posts were traced back to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm that used social networks to create divides among Americans and influence the election.
This is known as cognitive hacking and is the real scandal of the 2016 election, said Dr. Craig Albert, director of the Master of Arts in Intelligence and Security Studies program and associate professor of political science at Katherine Reese Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Augusta University.
Fake sources using social media to spread fake news are often able to reach a large audience who may never realize the stories are false, Albert said. In some instances, entire organizations and groups have been created under false pretenses and have had millions of social media followers.
“When so many people see fake news on their newsfeeds, they become a product of their belief in a fake story,” Albert said. “So, a fake story controls their opinions.”
Now, Russia is taking fake news a step farther. The newest trend is creating a false persona to push fake news on U.S. news organizations.
“They will have an expert create a story, and they will create credentials and a website to give credibility to this individual,” Albert said. “When media outlets try to ascertain the credibility of a person they typically visit the individual’s website or look at their resume. It appears legitimate, so the source is validated, and news outlets run the story.”
In many cases, though, these are false stories by individuals with fake credentials. Albert calls this source hacking.
“Source hacking is a major source of fake news, and, for obvious reasons, media do not self-report when this happens as it would undermine their organization’s credibility with the general population,” he said. “This correlates with cognitive hacking as both are predicated on false sources spreading false news to US citizens.”
Dr. Albert is an expert on American politics and political philosophy. He has experience with all forms of local and national news organizations and is available to speak to media regarding cognitive and source hacking. Contact us to schedule an interview with Dr. Albert or to learn more about his expertise.