What the reader was left with was a very selective, curated impression that online social media manipulation is something done exclusively by brown and black people and those dastardly Slavs. The column condemns “surreptitious techniques pioneered in Moscow and Beijing to use the internet to drown out dissent and undermine free elections,” going on to site online skullduggery in the Philippines, Kenya, Turkey, Mexico and Iran.
“Eighty-six percent of Freedom House’s budget comes from the US government.”
Missing from the piece by Freedom House’s Michael Abramowitz is any mention—much less discussion—of numerous reports detailing online manipulation by US and allied governments and Western PR firms.
No mention of the Defense Department’s $100 million program Operation Earnest Voice software that “creates fake online identities to spread pro-American propaganda.” No mention of the US Air Force’s 2010 solicitation of “persona management” software designed to create hundreds of sock puppets, “replete with background, history, supporting details and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographically consistent.” No mention of USAID (the same government agency, incidentally, that funds Freedom House) secretly creating an entire social media platform to “stir unrest” in Cuba. No mention of the US State Department’s newly-created $160 million Global Engagement Center, targeting English-language audiences with unattributed Facebookvideos combating, in part, “Russia propaganda.”