How Russian trolls lie their way to the top of your news feed

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Going viral used to be harmless.

Chewbacca Mom got more than 162 million views on Facebook while  and ended up on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” The that got friends collaborating on elaborately staged videos. Tay Zonday sang his “Chocolate Rain” ballad on YouTube in 2007 and .

But over the last few years, trolls learned how to turn trending moments into a tool for spreading misinformation.The same way that , trolls have figured out how to tap into what makes people want to share on social media and use it to popularize outrage and fake news.

The fallout is more serious than a spot on a daytime talk show — it’s widely believed that the rapid spread of fake news and increasingly divisive environment online swayed the 2016 US presidential election. Now Facebook and Twitter face criticism that they’ve lost control of their platforms as as “trending topics.”

For Russia especially, viral content has become a powerful weapon.In September, Twitter discovered 201 Russian-linked accounts dedicated to spreading fake outrage, while Facebook found about . These accounts pretended to be , taking up both sides of debates, tranh gỗ vinh quy bái tổ with the primary goal to make noise. All together, the fake accounts on Facebook had been seen more than 10 million times, and that was just for sponsored content.

If fake news is meant to misinform people, fake fights are designed to divide and distract.By spreading outrage, Russian trolls are able to bury legitimate news while driving people further apart. The conflict helps countries effectively control their propaganda, a key strategy detailed in approved in 2014.

“Cybersecurity is no longer about protecting our data from theft,”  Rep. Don Beyer, a Democrat from Virginia, said during a hearing on cybersecurity last week.

“It’s also about defending our democracy from disinformation campaigns that combine cyber assaults with influence operations.”

Russian magazine RBC investigated a Russian trolling operation and found that it on Facebook at the height of the 2016 US presidential election (the article is from a Russian magazine and has not been translated.An English ).

Here’s how Russian trolls used social media to effectively wreak havoc in the US.

Talk a-bot it

Going viral isn’t as simple as flipping a switch, but for Russian troll factories — with access to an army of bots on social media, it might as well be.   

Ben Nimmo, a defense and international security analyst with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, described the manufactured viral content as a three-step process.

“The goal of a propagandist is to spread your message, and the best way to do that is to get people to do it for you,” Nimmo said.

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