Today’s online propaganda has evolved in unforeseeable and seemingly absurd ways — by laughing at or spreading a Kermit the Frog meme, you may be unwittingly advancing the Russian agenda. These campaigns affect our elections integrity, public health, and intercultural relationships. In this episode, the first of two parts, disinformation expert Renée DiResta talks with Tristan and Aza about how these tactics work, how social media platforms’ algorithms and business models allow foreign agents to game the system, and what these messages reveal to us about ourselves. Renée gained unique insight into this issue when in 2017 Congress asked her to lead a team of investigators analyzing a data set of texts, images and videos from Facebook, Twitter and Google thought to have been created by Russia’s Internet Research Agency. She shares what she learned, and in part two of their conversation, Renée, Tristan and Aza will discuss what steps can be taken to prevent this kind of manipulation in the future.
Renée DiResta is the technical research manager at Stanford Internet Observatory, and a former Mozilla Fellow in Media, Misinformation and Trust.