Always be SURE when Reading News #WTFica
In the battle for hearts and minds, foreign agents have weaponised social media and communications technologies to advance their own interest in target countries: the information space can be cheaply and quickly flooded to warp our sense of reality.
Bots, for example, artificially inflate engagement by mimicking users on social media platforms, directly communicating with real users, and massively boosting follower levels to create an artificial impression of popular opinion.
In 2018, Singapore’s Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods reported on “click farms”, where large numbers of low-paid workers click on links or posts. One million Instagram “likes” can be bought for only US$18, 1,000 WeChat “likes” for US$0.19, and 500 re-tweets for US$2. Content marketing services offer fake news articles for as little as US$15 to US$30 for 500 to 1,500 words.
In February 2021, the social media analysis firm Graphika released a report titled ‘Deepfake It Till You Make It’ on a propaganda-coordinated network in favour of one country. Called “Spamouflage Dragon”, the network uses a mixture of bots, fake accounts, and stolen accounts to push and amplify videos and media targeting issues such as the safety of Western-made vaccines.
Other foreign actors hire third country troll farms: paid groups of people who create fake online profiles to populate social media and internet forums with a predetermined message. They work in coordinated fashion by sharing or commenting on each other’s posts, giving the illusion of a widely held point of view.
In recent years, social media companies have stepped up their efforts to take down problematic networks. For example, Meta’s report in 2022 on Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour highlights the removal of two unrelated networks from China and Russia, spreading disinformation about the war in Ukraine, among other topics.
But relying on social media companies to recognise and take down every suspicious page or post that crops up is not enough. Many of us spend more than seven hours online daily, so how can we recognise Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour, to protect ourselves from foreign interference?
Here are a few quick tips for your news and social media consumption, and balancing your own perspective:
(1) Question the source, follow a story to its origin (2) Look for confirmation across other reputable media sites (3) Use third-party fact checkers (4) Call out fake news shared by your network (5) Don’t assume everything on the internet is real (6) Learn to recognise bots (7) Identify your own biases
#WTFica. The stakes are even higher now. Stay mindful. Protect our way of life, and what Singapore stands for.
For more information on foreign interference examples and the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act, read: https://www.mha.gov.sg/fica
For Graphika’s report on deepfakes and spamouflage, read: https://public-assets.graphika.com/reports/graphika-report-deepfake-it-till-you-make-it.pdf
For Meta’s report in 2022 on Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour (CIB), read: https://about.fb.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/CIB-Report_-China-Russia_Sept-2022-1-1.pdf
For National Library Board, Singapore’s tips on safeguarding yourself from falsehoods, read: https://sure.nlb.gov.sg/about-us/sure-campaign/