This session demonstrates how Russian disinformation works via memes to polarize the American electorate.

There are three findings from the recent RAND study:

  • Russian content is effective in achieving its goals of generating strong positive reactions along partisan lines
  • Revealing the source of the meme reduces the likelihood of a positive response
  • Revealing the source and showing a media literacy video has the strongest effect on partisan Left and Right groups

The webinar explains what internet memes are — “any fad, joke or memorable piece of content the spreads virally across the web” — then shows detailed examples of five categories of memes used in the RAND study:

  • Right-leaning — anti-immigration (illegal), pro-southern Confederacy, gun rights, religion-focused
  • Left-leaning — Bernie Sanders campaign themes, Black rights, gender and sexual minority rights, generic liberal issues
  • Pro-US — veterans-related and patriotic
  • False news — COVID-19-related
  • Real news — COVID-19-related
  • Public service announcement — global

We also explore a seemingly innocuous memes website whose over-simplification and distortion of politics subvert critical thinking.

The session concludes with recommendations to hunt disinformation sources, to increase media literacy, and to improve critical thinking skills.

Next month after the Presidential election, we look forward to hearing from the Cyber Resilience Institute regarding hunting sources of disinformation.