Tweets with US flags fooled gullible Americans: New ‘deep’ media analysis

Tweets with US flags fooled gullible Americans: New ‘deep’ media analysis
If there’s one thing the mainstream media never tires of, it’s stories about so-called Russian trolls infiltrating vulnerable Western minds on social media — but a new “analysis” by the Daily Beast might just take the biscuit.

The best way to chart the course of Russian propaganda efforts on Twitter, the Beast advises, is to “chart the American flag emoji” — clearly a foolproof method.

Indeed, in its “secret campaign to sow division in the US, Russia may well have tried to weaponize” the Star-Spangled Banner, the Beast wrote in a lengthy analysis of the work of the now-infamous Internet Research Agency (IRA), which according to many in the Western media, is an outfit directly linked to the Kremlin.

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With apparently nothing more important happening in the world to grab their attention or engage their investigative journalism skills, some sleuths at the news website decided to analyze huge amounts of Twitter data in an effort to determine how effective so-called Russian propaganda efforts are on the social media platform.

The IRA, the article claims, unfurled 70,372 American flag emojis across four years, reaching “peak flagness” in August 2017 when one account used the flag 43 times in one tweet.

One might assume that such tweets — even if they did originate in some Russian troll factory tucked away behind the Kremlin — are so obviously ridiculous and fake that they could have no effect on anyone’s personal political evolution.

But the Beast quickly disabuses us of that notion, admitting that in fact, IRA tweets and tactics work “far better” in the United States than anywhere else.

“English-language tweets by the IRA’s sockpuppet accounts enjoyed nine times the engagement than tweets in Russian and other languages,” the article concludes. Now, it would be easy to suggest here that Americans are just more gullible, but there’s a more important factor which the Beast seems to have forgotten about.

The US leads the world by a fairly wide margin in terms of the number of active Twitter users, according to the website Statista. Russia does not even figure in the top ten — and nor do any Eastern European countries, which could also go some way towards explaining why the 'propaganda tweets' posted in Russian saw less action on the platform — but that wouldn’t have been as headline-worthy.

To add weight to its story, the Beast went to Ryan Fox, a former NSA official who delivered a comment dripping with anti-Russian xenophobia. The reason, he said, why Eastern Europeans apparently interact less often with IRA tweets, is because people there already “know Russia’s coming after them” and they have been “culturally trained” to recognize Russia as a threat. Americans, on the other hand, clearly have not been sufficiently trained into being terrified of Russia.

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The biggest contributor, Fox suggested, to the troll’s American success story, was the political divisiveness that already exists in the US — which is a bit strange, given that for months, US mainstream media has attempted to blame Russia itself for “sowing division” in the country.

Fox also lamented that Russians have apparently “weaponized truth” on Twitter... whatever that might mean.

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