Welcome to the Disinformation Age!
State-sponsored propaganda is almost as old as civilization itself. Some 2,500 years ago, military strategist Sun Tzu described how propaganda could be used as a weapon.
“Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting,” he wrote in his famous book The Art of War.
In Sun Tzu’s time, disinformation agents had to focus their efforts on deceiving a handful of leaders. Now, with the rise of the Internet, they can attempt to influence us all.
In a November 27 article titled “The Tools of Espionage Are Going Mainstream,” the codirector of the Center for International Security and Cooperation, Amy Zegart, wrote:
Deception is getting real. This month, lawyers for Facebook, Twitter and Google testified before Congress, facing hard questions and ugly truths about Russia’s online operations to inflame American divisions and undermine American democracy. The story keeps getting worse. Twitter has now found more than 2,700 accounts controlled by Russians and 36,000 suspected Russian “bots”—accounts that automatically generated 1.4 million election-related tweets receiving 288 million impressions during the final 10 weeks of the 2016 presidential election. Google has discovered that suspected Russian agents uploaded more than 1,000 YouTube videos about divisive social issues. And Facebook revealed that Kremlin-instigated content may have reached 126 million Americans. That’s more than a third of the U.S. population.
Zegart detailed how Russia’s Internet Research Agency established two Facebook groups: Heart of Texas and United Muslims of America. After each group had more than 250,000 followers, this state-funded agency organized opposing protests in U.S. streets.
Heart of Texas announced a “Stop Islamization of Texas” protest to be held on [May 21, 2016], at noon, outside a Houston mosque. Muslims of America announced a “Save Islamic Knowledge” protest on its Facebook page for the same day, time and place. The result: angry protests pitting real Americans against each other on the streets of Houston, all instigated by the Kremlin.
Of course, this is not the first time Russia has tried to stir up civil unrest in America. Vladimir Putin’s old boss in the kgb, Yuri Andropov, used propaganda in the 1970s to inflame racial tensions in the United States in the hope that a race war would distract the U.S. from countering Russian hegemony. But Internet technology is giving modern-day disinformation agents a platform that Comrade Andropov could only have dreamed about.
And Russia is not the only state using digital warfare to fan civil unrest in rival nations.
According to Spanish journalist Itxu Díaz, Venezuela may have flooded Catalonia with social media posts during its secession referendum. In a Daily Beast article titled “Venezuela and Russia Teamed Up to Push Pro-Catalan Fake News,” he wrote:
Here’s a chilling fact: At the height of the Catalan separatist crisis, analysis of more than 5 million messages about Catalonia posted on social networks between September 29 and October 5, shows that only 3 percent come from real profiles outside the Russian and Venezuelan cybernetworks. These are the conclusions of a report prepared by Javier Lesaca, visiting scholar at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.
And there’s more: 32 percent of the messages investigated came from Venezuela—accounts linked to the Chavista regime of Nicolás Maduro. Thirty percent were born from anonymous accounts exclusively dedicated to contents of the Russian state media RT and Sputnik; 25 percent came from bots; and 10 percent from the official accounts of the two Russian media mentioned.
There is evidence that the Chinese government is using bots, social media and content farms to saturate Taiwan with pro-Beijing propaganda. And even in the United States, there are numerous examples of the federal government using tax dollars to shape voters’ opinions.
In 2010, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a report detailing the Obama administration’s various propaganda initiatives:
The Obama administration frequently used federal resources to promote the president’s agenda. In many cases, the administration relied on the reach and resources of federal agencies and their personnel to promote certain of the president’s favorite programs. The White House also leveraged ties to the arts and entertainment community to embed propaganda in the content of television programming and artwork. These propaganda efforts violated appropriations riders and federal law prohibiting the use of appropriated funds for publicity or propaganda purposes.
The ability of government and media officials to deceive people has increased in lockstep with technology like the Internet and the smartphone.
The Bible predicted that there would be a surge in knowledge in the end time: “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4).
The surge of knowledge since the advent of the Internet age is a great proof that we are now in “the time of the end.” So if you are concerned about propaganda, disinformation and fake news, you can always rely on the one infallible source of information that foretold our current age of disinformation thousands of years before it started: the Holy Bible.
Not only did the Bible predict the Information Age, it also predicted the fake news crisis, the rise of Russia, the rise of China, and the increasing civil unrest in the United States. The predictive power of Bible prophecy is a subject all Christians need to understand!