Russian election observers warn of growing disinformation on social media

OSCE Election Observers Warn of Republican Election Deniers

OSCE election observers have warned of a growing groundswell of misinformation on social media, while at the same time increasing the flow of disinformation through online platforms.

The observers met in the Russian diplomatic mission in Vienna on Saturday, ahead of an official election observation mission to the US in April and May, the second of three such missions that will cover the US.

“The situation that we’ve developed in our observations is that there is an increasing number of false claims being made about candidates and parties and candidates,” said one of the observers, Mikhail Goryunov, adding that it was difficult for all those involved to figure out what was false and what was true.

“One of the major tasks is to try to understand what is false and what is true,” he said.

The observers have developed a series of recommendations to make sure that no one is wrongly influenced through false information. These include encouraging people to share the results of scientific research, as well as asking for more public debate about what the results were and how these could affect votes.

The observers expressed concern that the proliferation of disinformation on social media by the Russian campaign in particular was “unprecedented” given Russian officials’ previous history of interference in the US election. In the days following the March 2016 US election, Russia’s state-owned media outlet RT spread false information about Hillary Clinton and then-Republican candidate Donald Trump.

The latest revelations come after a series of reports revealed the identities of more than 200 social media accounts that are being used to spread disinformation about the US election. The accounts have been linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm with ties to Russian intelligence agencies.

There have been calls to ban social media networks in the run-up to the next presidential election. Many Republicans have accused Facebook of failing to do enough to thwart the spread of misinformation about the campaign.

Despite concerns that online disinformation campaigns played a part in the American elections, US election observers were at pains to paint a different picture of Russian influence.

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