Are you “friends” with a Russian bot? Taking a stand against idiocracy

September 13, 2018

So I have this friend…. he’s a real idiot. Here’s the problem. I’m concerned he might not be an actual person. He might be a Russian troll bot. Or if he’s a person, he’s a cyber operative of Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA). It’s either that or he’s an idiot.

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Let me tell you about my friend, “C.” (If he is just an idiot, we should take pity on him and not harass him. You can fix stupid.) C spends his days on Facebook. As a stay-at-home parent, I typically just keep my laptop open for the the occasional news binge or topical post, but every time I glance at it there is another 5 posts from C. Typically it’s some stupid meme about “socialism,” or Obama (still) or Hillary (still) or how Trump making America great again. He posts enough images about cute kittens and college football to look legit, but then it goes off the rails. Much of his posting is seriously bigoted towards Muslims and black people. Whining about black NFL players protesting racism takes up a large chunk of his time and when the Nike deal with Colin Kaepernick was announced, he went into full snowflake mode. I wanted to know what was going on in C’s life that he was so triggered by America’s long slow journey toward social justice and equality.

Then I realized I didn’t actually know C. He’s allegedly from my hometown, which is Stone Mountain, Georgia. Stone Mountain is the birthplace of the modern Ku Klux Klan in 1915 and sight of the first KKK cross burning, so it’s not uncommon for these mouth-breathing good ol’ boys to pop up in my social media network. But I never actually met C and an algorithm could have generated the connection, the same way I get endless friend requests from women in bikinis who live in “Portland, Oregon.” (Bikinis are about as common in Portland as baristas are at an NRA rally.) We have 37 friends in common, but they could have fallen for the fake profile as well.

C also claims to be a reservist in the Army which adds to his appeal of having in my friend circle. I’ve supported vets and my active service friends as long as I can remember. But now I see it a bogus attempt by foreign agents to create a profile that has credibility as a “real American.” I can’t believe any real American could be this stupid or bored. And here’s why I think that. C regularly posts things that are easily proven as false. Fake facts and fake news stories with photoshopped images. I’ve been guilty of posting something that sounds good and then someone will post a link to Snopes or FactCheck debunking it and I quickly delete it with a mea culpa. Not C. When I (fairly regularly) debunk his asinine posts, not only does he leave them up, he opens the door for his moronic troll army to attack. I know lots of people in the military, including family members. I have respect for them and know they are honorable people. Not C. He traffics in division. There’s no way he’s in the American armed services. He is fighting against America. He’s gotta be a Russian troll.

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I bring this up for two reasons. The first is there is more evidence that the Russians are weaponizing social media to spread discord among Americans before the 2018 mid-term elections to keep Trump’s power unchecked. C is a discord machine. His latest rash of stupid memes are dedicated to Democrats stealing hurricane relief funds and blaming Trump. He’s funneling images from Russian troll farms like “I hate hippies and their stupid light bulbs” and “Occupy Democrats Logic” like there was no tomorrow. C wants a divided states of America. There is never a call for national unity on his feed. It is corrosively anti-American.

The second reason is about how much time I have spent arguing with this non-person, pointing out his fake news and trying to convince him that there is a better way of thinking about politics. Why am I wasting my time? I like a good political debate, but this is an exercise in futility. I’m either going up against the Kremlin, or someone so damaged by repeated head blows in Afghanistan, I might as well be talking to a wall. Either way, I fear for the country. It feels like we are descending into Idiocracy and I’m complicit. Giving C one second of my time has advanced Russia’s goal to drive an even wider wedge between the red and the blue, when we are all only shades of purple.

So C, as of today I quit you. I won’t unfriend you, because I need to be able to see what Russia’s IRA trolls are up to, but I never respond to any of your posts about “Muslim slavery” or “Al Sharpton’s taxes” again. I can’t say it’s been fun. Удачи мой поддельный друг.

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