Community radio was the most trusted medium noted in one of my posts about influence and information during disasters. Local news is still more trusted than national news. While there has been a tremendous decline in newspapers in the US. According to The Pew Institute “The estimated total U.S. daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) in 2018 was 28.6 million for weekday and 30.8 million for Sunday, down 8% and 9%, respectively, from the previous year.” And “Weekday print circulation decreased 12% and Sunday print circulation decreased 13%.”
In spite of the decline of true local news sources, the trust of local news sources remains high. It’s no wonder that our adversaries are jumping on that bandwagon. The New York Times on October 31, 2019 ran an article “Americans Trust Local News. That Belief is Being Exploited” (see: https://nyti.ms/33oTEj9, which is also the photo source.
Adversarial attention to local news outlets builds on the growing distrust the American population has for national news outlets according to the article. Interestingly enough the efforts extend throughout the US with a network over 35 fake local websites in Michigan along according to the Lansing State Journal.
These fake sites shore up their appeal by combining local releases and announcements with their own content. Sites have names that look legitimate but are confusing by design to obfuscate their true origin. The article pointed out that many of these fake sites incorporate material gleaned from conservative sources. Once such source is the Daily Caller. While the Daily Caller isn’t labeled as a conservative oriented source, readers would quickly be able to determine their viewpoint.
There is a synergy with these gray (hard to determine source) propaganda sites and white (identity clearly stated). The article noted that “In August and September, President Trump’s official Facebook page linked three times to the Minnesota Sun, which had published commentaries by the leader of the state’s Republican Party and the chief operating officer of the Trump re-election campaign.”
There are some interesting lessons learned for PSYOPers.
1. Community sources remain trusted.
2. Even discerning information consumers would have difficult tracing sources on ‘fake’ sites.
3. Localizing information sources requires a combination of true local material to maintain credibility.
4. There is a blend of Gray and Black propaganda sites.
5. Material that supports the point of view of the site producer can be imported from a variety of sources including legitimate ones.
Here’s an informative piece of advice while watching the 2020 elections: http://bit.ly/2NoBqcg