The existence of a Russian disinformation campaign that could make Americans hesitant to vaccinate their children highlights something important about the Kremlin’s information war on the United States.
…it is after a far bigger prize: the exacerbation of Americans’ distrust of one another and, in turn, the erosion of their confidence in society and the US government.
…After combing through nearly 2 million tweets recorded between 2014 and 2017, the researchers found that Russian troll accounts were significantly more likely to tweet about vaccination than general Twitter users. They had turned to vaccines as a wedge issue in an effort to ramp up social discord, erode trust in public health institutions, and exacerbate fear and division in the United States.
…The study suggested that by giving the illusion of a grassroots debate, complete with content pushing both for and against vaccination, Russia could better tap into the fears and divisions among Americans — and exploit them.
…Russian trolls’ contemporary messages were crafted with key terms like “freedom” and “constitutional rights,” which were often absent from other anti-vaccination tweets. One Russian disinformation account captured the style of this approach in just 13 words and two hashtags: “Apparently only the elite get ‘clean’ #vaccines. And what do we, normal ppl, get?! #VaccinateUS.”
…Another source of US vulnerabilities that Russian disinformation campaigns are looking to take advantage of centers on the country’s foreign policy.
…Although the specific messaging used to engage different audiences varied, the overall Russian narrative appears to be one built around US incompetence and malfeasance. Its messaging aligned clearly with Russia’s foreign-policy objective of limiting US involvement in Syria.
…Russia isn’t interested in the final outcome of US partisan struggles. It is interested in identifying, targeting, and amplifying any vulnerabilities of the United States. Efforts to use vaccination as a wedge issue demonstrates just how well Russian information operations can take any issue, identify how it may engage or divide Americans, and manipulate social media discourse to meet Russian ends.
The tweets, memes, etc. involved are so obvious. There is something obviously off about them. Every single time. Yet people who are smart enough to know better eat that shit up. Stupid sheeple.