In recent months the debate on the spread of fake news has become a topical issue and giants like Facebook and Google have been sharply criticized for their role in spreading false information around the world. The proliferation of false articles and unverified information are considered by many to be a significant feature of the last election campaign in the United States.
A new study by security firm Trend Micro shows that political campaigns can manipulate elections by spending $400,000 on fakes and fake items, according to a new report that analyzes the cost of influencing Public opinion through dissemination of disinformation. The study also found that it only costs $55,000 to discredit a journalist and $200,000 to provoke a protest in the street based on false information. These disturbing figures show how easy it is to make cyberpropaganda to have real-world results.
This study comes at a time of global concern around the piracy of elections and the different ways fake news on social networks have manipulated voters. The report explores clandestine online spots that allow campaigns, political parties, private companies and other entities to strategically create and disseminate false content to change public perceptions.
Analysis of the Chinese, Russian, English and Middle East fake news services found that these options offer a cost-effective alternative to traditional advertising and promotion efforts often use social networks to broadcast questionable content. Whether you’re in China, Russia, Europe or the US, it’s very easy to buy these services.
With targeted campaigns, false content can provoke protests. So, according to the study, campaigns can create and mount groups on social networks that discuss relevant ideologies for the cost of $40,000, wrote Trend Micro.
To maximize the scope of content, campaigns can spend $ 6,000 to have close to 40,000 I like (“likes”) of “high-quality”. In these fake news services, it will take 5000 dollars to have 20000 comments and 2700 dollars for a false report. Campaigns can go further by buying retweets and other promotional services like placement of videos on YouTube that help news to become viral.
The study noted that these campaigns rely on fake news shared as a reality to court the ideologies of the audience and give an illusion of the future, enough to force people to join a supposed cause.
Manipulating election results can also be relatively affordable for politicians and political parties, according to the report. A campaign manager can buy targeted news sites against $ 3,000 per site and then fill these sites with false information disguised as legitimate news. Maintaining these sites with false content costs $5,000 per month and social networking campaigns cost $3,000 more per month.
Buying rests and biased comments on these content can boost a campaign. Some of these networks also distribute legitimate information allowing sites to have a reputation and blur the boundary between what is propaganda and legitimate content. In total, the study found that an annual campaign of $400,000 must be able to decisively manipulate the course of an action.
A group that also wants to attack a journalist can easily mount a four-week fake news campaign. The weekly propaganda, coupled with 50,000 retweets and attracting 100,000 visits costs 2,700 dollars. In addition to discrediting the journalist, a more frightening consequence is how the report or points that the journalist wanted to raise will be engulfed in a wave of disinformation generated by the campaign, wrote Trend Micro.
Other impressive figures show that an account on social networks can become a celebrity in a month with 300,000 subscribers and for the cost of $2,600.
Given the effectiveness and low cost of these types of propaganda campaigns, some are afraid that they will become commonplace during elections. It is important that we put an end to these practices as quickly as possible before they become mainstream.
Following the debate on fake news and how they spread on social networks especially after the US presidential election, Facebook and Google have begun to develop tools to deal with misinformation.