Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Vietnam Veterans of America, among others, targeted by online trolls

House VA Committee Looks into Trolls Targeting Veterans Groups

MARCH 18, 2019
Someone’s spreading misinformation to veterans and their families and Congress wants to know who.

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., launched an investigation this month into who’s impersonating veterans service organizations to target service members, veterans, their families and the American public.

“Our veterans served in uniform to guard against threats to our democracy just like those posed by these internet bots and trolls intent on sowing division and spreading misinformation,” Takano said in a statement. “Congress has a responsibility to stamp out these anonymous individuals and protect our country from threats foreign and domestic.”

The committee is looking into reports of campaigns that impersonate veterans and VSOs to share misleading content or fabricated “news” about military issues and ultimately cause confusion or inspire fear amongst veterans and their families. A committee staffer told Nextgov that they’re currently in the fact-finding stage of the investigation and plan to soon hold stakeholder meetings on the issue.

Today’s technological landscape has made it easy for instigators to use tools such as email and social media to influence voting behaviors or trick Americans into sharing their most sensitive personal data.

Kristofer Goldsmith, a veteran who served on the frontlines in Iraq before smartphones and social media were ubiquitous, has been tracking and combatting trolls and foreign adversaries targeting Vietnam Veterans of America, a congressionally-chartered VSO, since August 2017. He said the work is more important now than it has ever been.

“I’m really glad that Chairman Takano recognizes that too, because I feel like we’ve been screaming from the rooftops and until now no one has really heard us,” Goldsmith said.
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