VA launches investigation of bots using fake news to target veterans

This month the US Department of Veterans Affairs launched an investigation into “anonymous internet actors” impersonating veterans service organizations in an effort to scam veterans.

According to an article published by Stars and Stripes, “Vietnam Veterans of America has investigated the issue since 2017, when the organization discovered a Facebook page using its name and logo. The page posted politically divisive posts and was followed by nearly 200,000 people – tens of thousands more than the official VVA page. Facebook Inc. disabled the page after determining it violated VVA’s intellectual property. Kristofer Goldsmith, associate director for policy and government affairs at VVA, discovered the page in mid-2017. Since then, he’s worked to shut down more fake accounts that target veterans and servicemembers with disinformation.”

Goldsmith continued by saying that foreign “trolls” were targeting the military community to “weaponize and turn a profit off our patriotism…stealing our names, logos and reputations to gain their trust,”

Acciording to a study from Oxford University in 2017,  Russian operatives were found to mostly use Twitter and Facebook to disseminate “junk news” to veterans and servicemembers.

Researchers studying how Americans were affected by “fake news” during the 2016 presidential election found that bots targeted mostly military personnel and veterans with propaganda, conspiracies and hyper-partisan political content. This is due to the fact that the population of veterans contain “potentially influential voters and community leaders” because of the trust the public places in them, the study states.

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