According to the report, “What is behind the spike in Russian social media activity?” shown in a news clip Monday, April 17, 2018, the Pentagon reported there has been a 2000% increase in Russian social media trolling since the US strike on Syria on Friday.
What does this mean and should the US and other countries be worried? In the interview, Morgan Wright, Sr Fellow for the Center of Digital Government stated that the UK, indeed, is on alert for another cyber attack, following closely on the heels of the malicious ransomware attack on their healthcare system.
Information warfare, as referenced in the discussion to the 2016 election, is not new nor is it without serious consequences. Social media trolls are intent on creating doubt, deceit, manipulation and confusion. These trolls rely on disinformation to start quarrels and upset people. They basically want to provoke readers into an emotionally charged, negative response.
The English noun, “troll” dates back to 1610 and comes from the Old Norse word meaning ugly giant or demon. Equating ugly giants or demons to social media trolls, makes it easy to conjure up an image of a creature that inflames and wreaks havoc among normal, well meaning individuals.
There’s no escaping the internet trolls in a connected world however, protecting privacy online by understanding and utilizing privacy settings on personal social media accounts will go a long way toward warding off trolls.
Cyberbullying, often a result of disinformation, is an issue young teens face that can be countered with the cultivation of empathy. Reconsidering messages before they are sent, rethinking aggressive behavior and encouraging bystanders to report abuse they witness, are just a few of the ways to cultivate a culture of empathy and decrease the number of social media trolls.