MEK and Fake News

The cabinet plans to combat fake news were presented in silence on Friday. A missed opportunity, thinks political editor David van der Wilde. “The Netherlands should be more concerned about it.”

Fighting fake news; on her arrival, Deputy Prime Minister Kajsa Ollongren saw it as one of her most important tasks. Substantial criticism immediately followed. The Minister of the Interior was called paranoid or declared to be Big Brother. And then it remained silent for months. Apart from an information campaign, fake news seemed to have disappeared from the agenda. Until this Friday.

heshmat alavi
An Iranian Activist Wrote Dozens of Articles for Right-Wing Outlets. But Is He a Real Person?

The Politics and Social Media manipulation study was presented on the first day of the recess. On behalf of the minister, two UvA scientists looked into the state of digital debate. The conclusion? Not fake news but pulp, propaganda and fake followers cause the problems on the Dutch web.

With the relative silence and the noiseless report during the recess, the subject seems to be obscured. Tendentious sites such as DDS and GeenStijl crow victory and sceptics see their equal confirmed: That whole fake news story itself is completely fake. A special conclusion. Because whoever takes the trouble to read the research or to study the subject at all, sees something else.

Getting worse

The researchers do have concerns about what they call ‘junk news’. The foreign culprits are not extremely active, but there are problems nationally. There is a warning for politicians and opinion makers with joke followers and it is found that it makes it easier for right-wing conspiracy theories to reach the mainstream.

Researcher Richard Rogers explains to me that pulp and hyperpartite ‘news’ is being shared more and more easily, particularly during elections. Something that, according to Rogers, ‘only gets worse’. He also points to the fact that, although social media companies remove fake news, they are very closed.

For example, it is not disclosed which accounts are blocked or deleted by the companies or removed or why. That makes it difficult for researchers and journalists to see and report abuses. That does not really help in an open and democratic debate.

MEK, a US-built state within a state

Influence brigades

Yet that is only part of the threat. Last year I went into the world of digital influence for De Nieuws BV for a few months. What I found was a world of digital armies and state influence. That reality is seen not only by security services and politicians. Numerous studies, dashboards and publications show that the problem exists.

For example, a 2017 study by Cambridge University already noticed that at least 29 countries with their own digital influence brigades are active worldwide. In addition to Russia and Iran, for example, allies are also involved in this. Germany has the ‘Cyberkommando des Bundeswehr’ on the digital front line and the British are deploying their 77th Brigade on Facebook.

Whether the Netherlands itself plays an active role in influencing, I have unfortunately not been able to find out or disprove. We do know through articles in NRC, Green Amsterdam and the New York Times that we have been the target of Russian influence operations. Fortunately, no attempts were made in the last few elections.

A good example of this is the story of the MEK. An Iranian Mojahedin cult with its own troll bunker in Albania. The group even managed to come up with its own writer in addition to the propaganda tweets: Heshmet Alavi . A ‘writer’ who managed to publish his stories on The Daily Caller, The Diplomat and Forbes and thus even influence Trump’s policies.

The Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) troll bunker

A good example of this is the story of the MEK. An Iranian Mojahedin cult with its own troll bunker in Albania. The group even managed to come up with its own writer in addition to the propaganda tweets: Heshmet Alavi . A ‘writer’ who managed to publish his stories on The Daily Caller, The Diplomat and Forbes and thus even influence Trump’s policies.

There are countless fascinating stories. These range from American useful idiots in the Mueller report, sent by Russian trolls with pocket money to demonstrate theatrically, to the “my tweet is right” by Marjolein Faber.

So, influencing you and me with false messages and propaganda pulp is not a fairy tale. That we have seen no evidence of foreign influence in the last few elections is good news. But it does not mean that the threat has disappeared. The Netherlands should therefore be more worried. A little more spotlight on this report would not have been out of place.
David van der Wilde, NPO Radio, Translated by Iran Interlink

David van der Wilde is a political editor for De Nieuws BV

Tags

Recommanded

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button
Close