The headline reads: “Red Cross Installs Drop-off Bins for Donors’ Convenience”. If the internet user who reads the story doubts its accuracy, then “Facebook is Mailing Airhorns to its Users to Blow Whenever They See Fake News” might be of interest.

The headline reads: “Red Cross Installs Drop-off Bins for Donors’ Convenience”.  If the internet user who reads the story doubts its accuracy, then “Facebook is Mailing Airhorns to its Users to Blow Whenever They See Fake News” might be of interest.
Sometimes benign pranksters generate fake news stories like these to earn extra spending money, but often professionals with a darker purpose write sham stories. These writers distribute their disinformation with the goal of making the public see them as credible sources.
 Disinformation campaigns strive to make the public so familiar with the misleading or false message that they accept it as truth. Trolls  spread and intensify the propaganda message, and often harass those who challenge them.
They expand the campaign by sending out numerous inconsistent versions, which confuse the issue to the point that the audience believes that they will never be able to know the truth.  
Propaganda campaigns can be used as a non-military measure to achieve political goals, and this has caused concern in Europe. In 2015 the EU set up East StratCom to oppose Russian fake news.
It found evidence of a vast fake news campaign targeting European countries. The attack exploits existing divisions or creates new ones, with the purpose of weakening and destabilizing the West. (EU East StratCom, Jan. 20, 2017)
EU East StratCom collected disinformation data daily for 15 months from more than 2,500 examples in 18 languages and concluded,” …the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign is delivering the same disinformation stories in as many languages as possible, through as many channels as possible, and as often as possible.”
Both Germany and France are already warning of the threat of disinformation attacks on their 2017 elections, while several European security services have spoken openly about the threat of hostile Russian disinformation activities.
German intelligence warned last year that Russian hackers might seek to influence the country’s elections in September.
The number one target is Angela Merkel, who has been subjected to a continuous barrage of fake news over her refugee policy and support for economic sanctions against Russia.
 Germany’s domestic security agency alleged that Russia was responsible for a hoax story claiming that refugees raped a 13-year old child.  Another  false story spread claiming that Germany’s oldest church had been burnt down by 1,000 Muslims chanting “Allah Akbar!”
Fake news also spread to neighboring Austria and was used to discredit both candidates in their presidential election.  Opponents of the independent candidate, Alexander van der Bellen, attempted to spread the news that he is suffering from dementia and is gravely ill.
The Czech counter intelligence service said in a 2015 report the goal of Kremlin disinformation is to “weaken society's will for resistance or confrontation. (Fake news: an insidious trend that's fast becoming a global problem, The Guardian, Dec. 2, 2016).
In this “post-truth” era, consumers who want facts have to be disciplined about where they get their news.  Googling a suspicious story to check on who else is covering the story is a good practice, and relying on neutral media and sources such as BBC, PBS, CSPAN, Reuters, Associated Press and local newspapers will give a clearer picture.
The internet news stories we receive are determined by calculations based on our location, past click behavior and search (filter bubble). The credibility of the news story isn’t a factor.
Our news feed has become dictated by how likely we are to click on stories, rather than whether they are fact or fiction.  It’s our responsibility to determine which it is.



Vera Nall writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.