Some of the content is similar to those Facebook uncovered in the US: alt-right, nationalist, angry, often hateful of minorities. There’s “Politicised”, a group with a big Union Jack sharing content about how gay Christians are bullied by other members of the LGBT community. Another is straight out of the alt-right handbook: “Being A leftist is easy!” it says, “if anyone disagrees with you, call them a racist!”.
Then it gets slightly weirder. The network’s puppeteers “operated fake accounts to engage in hate speech”, Facebook said. But one account was calling for the leader of UKIP to be charged with hate speech. Another fake group was called “Anti Far Right Extremists”. Another, “Halal Speech”. The network was coordinated, but coordinated to share information which was completely contradictory.
…The purpose of this network, why it existed, wasn’t to try to convince you and the rest of the UK of something you didn’t believe beforehand. The point wasn’t to replace one belief with another. Lying wasn’t the full picture. No, it was cleverer than that.
This network wasn’t trying to change your mind, it was trying to confirm it. [emphasis: peanut gallery] To make you even surer that you are right, and make you angrier with the people who are wrong – the internet’s “leftards” or “racists” – than you were before. The messages were poles apart, and all of it was calculated to provoke exactly the same response: outrage. This strategy, a similar one to those uncovered on Twitter in the past, is all about inhabiting both ends of the political spectrum, and to pull them further and further, angrier and angrier apart.
This wasn’t about changing what people thought. It was about changing what people feel, and the issues themselves have always been whatever people are angriest about. We’ve seen online influence campaigns touch on almost everything on which societies profoundly disagree: police brutality, minority rights, gun rights, transgender issues, anti-vaxx, anti-GMO, online privacy concerns, and alleged government corruption. Wedge issues that inflame existing social tensions.
…This wasn’t fake news. This was a covert online influence operation.
…Given the strategy involved, my bet is that the people behind this network are those who would benefit from the UK becoming more divided.