Freedom of Speech - Our Inherent & Inherited Vulnerability
We've had a social media Pearl Harbor and we're still floating in the harbor, waiting for another wave of troll kamikaze drone-bots to spread disinformation. America's greatest weakness is our collective inability to identify the truth and smell bullshit and our freedom to spread it among ourselves. We should know better, but we don't. Why is that?
We don't know better because many of us were never taught to think critically about what we read or to go beyond our social and political borders to see different perspectives. That skill, and it is a skill, requires a number of emotional, intellectual, and social virtues that we do not normally associate with national defense or protecting our country, but may be the most important skills we can develop, those of the citizen. It would help if we could see examples.
Identify and Neutralize the Enemy
We may not be able to destroy the enemy, the Russian attackers who have infiltrated our social media, but we can identify them. Some clues are obvious, an new account with 250,000 followers is one, but there are many more subtle indicators that the account may be a bot and not a real person, or a highly intelligent enemy combatant. We cannot go into the fray unarmed or we will hurt. But first, we need to know who they are. We can't get bogged down in verifying the truth of this or that quote or this or that story. Snopes, Politifact, and the Washington Post, among others, have tried to be fact-checkers, but the sheer volume of disinformation is overwhelming. We can't stop it, but we can identify it, and try not to step in it. While that may not be a complete answer, it might allow other decision makers in the social media industry to change policies about access to the huge megaphones they have provided to people who spread disinformation.
In the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings, Clint Watts recommended that the private sector create a "Consumer Reports" for the public to use. At Trumptrashbags, we have not pretense at status or "authority." Those are the tools of people we need to resist. Our partner is this will be Political Research.US, The mission and values of that entity represent the kind of approach we want to support.
To that end, we are proposing a GoFundMe campaign to develop a public access database of suspicious accounts on Facebook and Twitter. A great start on this has already been made with regard to news sources, but the "repeaters" and tweeters in Facebook and Twitter need to be identified as well.
The Budget Plan
We think these costs seem reasonable to begin such an effort:
Phase 1 - Develop Identification System
$50,000 - Develop good business rules, verification standards, best practices for investigation and tagging (Staff Search Cost $5,000). Estimated Staff - 2 people, Time - 2 months
$150,000 - Develop secure database, tip line access, project management system for development and deployment. Estimated Staff - 3 people, Time - 4 months.
Phase II - Advertise and Mobilize Identification System
$150,000 - Advertising on Google Ads, Twitter, Facebook for database and email lists. Estimated Staff - 2 People, Paid placements $125,000.
Assuming that we can get sufficient funding for Phase I by May, we anticipate a 6-month roll-out for Phase I, with Phase II comingsomewhere near January 2018 to go live with Phase II, prior to the mid-term election.
In the meantime, we recommend the following books for people to read about propaganda and the Russian threat to democracy: