Nowadays we hear a lot about the need to counter Russia’s information and cyber-warfare. We hear very few actual solutions, however. Most of the time it’s just “more fact checking!” or “more cyber-security!” I’ve only seen one suggestion as to how to fight back, and it was predictably lame (in involved exposing Vladimir Putin’s hidden fortunes, as though ordinary Russians aren’t well aware of his wealth). I’m here to change that. There are ways to fight back against information threats from Russia and other world powers, and I’m going to lay them out here.
Russia’s “troll factory” has gotten a lot of publicity in recent years. What you don’t hear people talking about, however, is counter-trolling. Think about it- not only does the US have more resources to spend on troll factories, but American comment trolls are far more vicious and most of all- pedantic. Could you imagine St. Petersburg operatives trying to troll a conversation on Twitter, only to be mass attacked by sixty professional basement-dwellers all beginning their responses with “ACTUALLY…?”
If you’ve ever dealt with Russian paid trolls, you know that they can never really uphold any semblance of a real “debate.” Our home-grown variety can at least accomplish that much. Plus, they have a lot of refined tactics, such as “sea-lioning,” the act of asking endless entry-level questions while hiding behind a mask of “civility.”
Just imagine the confrontation:
RUSSIAN TROLL: Obama used the CIA to overthrow the legitimate government of Ukraine and replace it with Nazis!!!
AMERICAN TROLL: Excuse me, but do you have evidence that the previous government of Ukraine was “legitimate,” as you say?
RUSSIAN TROLL: Viktor Yanukovych was elected! He was legitimate!
AMERICAN TROLL: So according to you, being elected means someone was legitimate. How do you define elected or legitimate?
RUSSIAN TROLL: WHAT ABOUT IRAQLIBYAVIETNAMCUBACHILEANGOLA…Wait. Are you being serious now?
AMERICAN TROLL: Yes I’m serious. I’m trying to have a serious debate about the definition of political legitimacy. I feel this is a perfectly fair question and I don’t see why we can’t have a reasonable debate about it.
RUSSIAN TROLL: Yanukovych was elected president of Ukraine!
AMERICAN TROLL: I see. And do you have any evidence that this “Ukraine,” as you call it, actually exists? I’ve never seen it.
RUSSIAN TROLL: AH HA! So you acknowledge it is fake country!
AMERICAN TROLL: Hmmm…Curious how the US government could overthrow the government of something you claim is a fake country.
RUSSIAN TROLL: What are you even talking about?!
AMERICAN TROLL: Actually I’m asking the questions here if you don’t mind. I have reasonable questions and have asked them in a civil manner. There’s no need to be upset.
Wikipedia defines shitposting as “the act of posting large amounts of content of “aggressively, ironically, and trollishly poor quality” to an online forum or social network, in some cases intended to derail discussions or otherwise make the site unusable to its regular visitors.”
This might make you think shitposting is bad. Under the right conditions, it can be quite amusing. Here are some examples:
Pic a fandom or subject and chances are there’s a Facebook group for shitposts dedicated to whatever it is.
Now imagine large communities of professional shitposters making deliberately poor photoshop memes about Putin and his cronies. Oh wait…They’ve kind of done that. Meet Pynia.
Now just imagine that, but like, times one million, drowning VK.com in shitposts forever.
These are just two possible ways to fight back against Russia’s information war. Yeah, they’re not particularly good ways and are in fact deliberately stupid for the sake of parody, but lately this is the topic where people with incredibly stupid suggestions get a lot of attention and in some cases, money. Because after all…