Study: Troops, Veterans Likely Online Troll Targets

Washington Report

(October 24, 2017) Military members and veterans are sharing fake and misleading reports online because they are specific targets of social media trolls, according to a recent study by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project.

According to Military Times, the study found “significant and persistent interactions between current and former military personnel and a broad network of Russia-focused accounts, conspiracy theory focused accounts, and European right-wing accounts.”

The study had a nearly instant impact. Vietnam Veterans of America has requested that Facebook and Twitter do more to protect military members, their families and veterans from the disinformation campaigns favored by the foreign online accounts.

John Rowan, the president of VVA, said, “For months, we’ve been quietly trying to push Facebook to close down fake pages that are imitating Vietnam Veterans of America and to stop Russian bots from harassing our advocates to no avail.”

He said the Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs should get involved.

The Oxford study said false information shared by military members and veterans benefits from the high esteem in which the nation holds them.

“The public tends to place trust in military personnel and veterans, making them potentially influential voters and community leaders,” the study found. “Given this trust and their role in ensuring national security, these individuals have the potential to become particular targets for influence operations and information campaigns conducted on social media.”

The problem is greater on Twitter than Facebook, although both present problems, according to the study.