Troll Watch: Disinformation About Impeachment Hearings

Troll watch: disinformation Around Impeachment hearings

NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with Karen Kornbluh, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, through disinformation campaigns in connection with the impeachment hearings.


The first two public hearings on the impeachment inquiry this week generated a lot of online reaction, as you might expect. But we wondered whether the hearings also generated a new round of the online disinformation. That’s today’s topic for our regular segment we call See the Troll.


MARTIN: We are now came from someone who is always on the search for the dissemination of misleading information on the Web. She is Karen Kornbluh. She is a senior fellow and Director of the Digital Innovation and democracy-Initiative of the German Marshall Fund. It is here in Washington, DC

Karen Kornbluh, welcome. Thanks for joining us.

KAREN KORNBLUH: to have thank you so much for me.

MARTIN: Are you seeing any kind of disinformation activity, specifically with the indictment hearings this week?

KORNBLUH: Yes. What is so interesting is how much the classic disinformation playbook is at work, but also, as we see how the playbook is being re-written for the disinformation. The most prominent aspect is the merging of the digital world and the physical was that the tweets were, play a role in the negotiation.

it is noteworthy that the Republican members blew a tweet from the whistleblower’s attorney to say that the coup has begun. But to Airbrush out that the tweet was the fact that he was talking, Sally Yates’ dismissal is not about the whistleblower and, of course, the President is tweeting in the middle of the hearings was. So you have seen that the merging of the digital and the physical lead. And then she saw the Central role of conspiracy theories. So you see a lot of these classic aspects of disinformation.

MARTIN: Was the activity on one side or the other? Was that the most directed in a pro-Trump direction? Or most of it was aimed at an anti-Trump direction? Or was it about equal?

KORNBLUH: The alt-right has definitely the disinformation perfected techniques. One of the aspects that was to follow really interesting is the development of these networks, which are called MAGA trains or trump trains on Twitter. And they are real people who are working hard, the construction of this incredibly intricate and long pendant trains on Twitter. And so they are very difficult to distinguish between bots, but they are real people, real Americans, the coordination in a way, to grow a viral enthusiasm. But it truly is orchestrated very. And it really is a new frontier in disinformation.

MARTIN: do you think that this kind of disinformation activity is that an effect on the political debate? – I mean, because, as you said, the old-law very cleverly. Do you think it is, by a thumb on the scale of the public debate?

KORNBLUH: I think this is an interesting question. I think people are becoming a lot more demanding, and it may be that the disinformation is really mostly for the true believers, and so it does not gain any new followers. The goal, however, is to confuse the part. So, once a place where disinformation could have been to convince people an alternative narrative, now is stir it up really, so much confusion, that people tune out.

And so, this is the one way it could have an impact. It is not that it is not going to convince you that the people witness to lie. It is the only way that the people turn off your TV, throw your hands up and say: I’m so tired of all the bickering. I can’t be the sense of the whole. It’s almost like a post-modern approach to disinformation.

MARTIN: And what is on the other side, though? I mean, it just seems clear that there are two different tactics at work here. And one of the arguments that Democrats make is that these are the facts, and the facts have to matter. A factual basis for decision-making is of fundamental importance to a rules-based order in the world. I mean, this is your argument. But having said that, have you recognized campaigns of disinformation against President Trump or support of law enforcement?

KORNBLUH: well, I think the Democrats are still clinging to old norms and old ways of presenting information. And you have not used to the same extent that these new techniques. But you begin to understand you, and you begin to experiment with them. And what we don’t want to see, is to equip a disinformation betting, with both sides speaks to the use of these tactics, and no one the truth.

MARTIN: This is Karen Kornbluh. She is a senior fellow and Director for Digital Innovation, and democracy-Initiative of the German Marshall Fund here in Washington, DC, studied disinformation. I would like to mention, she is also a former Ambassador to the OECD, appointed by the Obama administration.

Karen Kornbluh, thank you so very much for your cooperation.

KORNBLUH: thank you, Michel.


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Released on Sun, 17 Nov 2019 22:08:00 +0000

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