As American soldiers stationed in Texas were on a training mission in Poland last year, the Army command post caught sight of some posts on social media that set off a three-star alarm. What they were reading could not have been further from the truth.
The posts stated that a soldier with the 1st Armored Division had allegedly killed a Polish soldier before stealing a car and hightailing it out of the area. These posts even included photos which to the unsuspecting eye seem to confirm the accusation.
The Army’s director of public affairs at Army Europe, Col. Joe Scrocca, after viewing the photos, said, “The first thing we think when we see it is, ‘Yeah, right — this is bull. But then we start searching, and it’s like, ‘Oh wow. The soldier really is in that unit, and these pictures are not fake.”
The photos and the story were so convincing, even the Colonel was initially mistaken. Since the Army unit was in the field it took a while to totally investigate the alleged incident. Once they did, they discovered the soldier in reference was in, in fact, still with his unit, and still doing the job he had been tasked with doing.
Even though the posts were fake, they served as an indicator of just how sophisticated the bad actors who are spreading these falsities have become.
In 2018, a story receiving wide circulation appeared as though it had come from a leading news site in Lithuania. The fake story stated how an Army armored vehicle had run over a boy riding his bicycle, immediately killing the child. It never happened.
German troops also fell prey to a Russia backed news story claiming one of their soldiers had cornered an orphan girl in Lithuania and raped her. This also never happened.
NATO’s previous top military official, Czech Army Gen. Petr Pavel, said the fake news stories coming out of Russia would continue. “It will get stronger,” he said. “… But we will be transparent, consistent.”
Efforts by Russia to spread disinformation have become increasingly more dangerous as they infiltrate social media platforms, and members of those platforms buy into the fake news. Their intent? To sow division in America, and elsewhere.
American troops have been educated and warned concerning the sophisticated disruptions as being lethal weapons used against them. Though the spread of propaganda has always been an issue, since the days of the famed Tokyo Rose, thanks to modern technology it has escalated into high-tech dissemination.
The military has now taken steps to combat this invisible warfare. Each branch has created special units consisting of well-trained members who continuously search out and destroy the misinformation highway.
To show the military’s seriousness, the Marine Corps has developed three information groups known as MIGs. Between the three groups, 12,000 troops work around the clock in their mission to search and destroy.
The commander of the information group based in North Carolina, Col. Brian Russell, stated, “If you [wonder] how important a concern … this disinformation, this information environment is, I think the creation of a MIG is a signal that the Marine Corps takes it very seriously.”
In addition to combating the disinformation and heading it off at the pass, the military is working diligently to seek out who is behind these fake posts, and where they are located.
It was determined that much of it is coming from Cyprus and other Baltic countries. An official at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab made the following statement.
“Within any of these Baltic nations, there are segments of the population who are quite disenchanted with NATO and the West, and who are in fact much more sympathetic toward Russia. It may well be people … who may wish that they were part of Russia who are independently spreading this sort of disinformation.”
Knowing the immense problem America faces with bad actors attempting to tear the citizens of our nation apart, be careful. Question everything. Even with the military honing in on this illicit activity, some of it still gets through.
If something doesn’t quite seem right to you, it’s probably because it’s fake propaganda. Discernment has never been more important than it is today. Use caution.