SAN FRANCISCO — The enduring popularity of a provocative post on Instagram, created by a company with connections to the Kremlin, demonstrates why fighting propaganda on social media will be an uphill battle.
The photograph in the post, of a smiling woman wearing a black hijab, seems innocent. But the text around it was crafted to push buttons. This is a woman, readers are warned, who hates everything from Jews and Christians to lesbians and wine — yet she “complains about Islamophobia.”
Since it was posted on Nov. 8, the image has been “liked” by more than 6,000 people on Instagram, the image-sharing site owned by Facebook. What those people probably did not know was that it was created by the Internet Research Agency, or I.R.A., a so-called Russian troll farm that employed hundreds to influence discussions online by stirring debate in comment sections below online stories and creating provocative posts on social media.
The account where the post first appeared was banned by Instagram this year, but other accounts continue to spread the image.
Thank you SHEERA FRENKEL for bringing this problem of Fake News on Instagram to our attention. It is sickening, but it is also a very serious problem. This country has to figure out how to have a free and open press, but not one coopted by foreign powers, hate groups and the purveyors of fake news. Please keep us posted as to whether Intagram takes this problem seriously, and is all it should to fix this problem.
David Lindsay Jr is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam”.