Sunday, 1 April 2018

Faking the News on Facebook?

By Les May

IN the distant days of my youth my two primary modes of entertainment were listening to the radio and reading books from Rochdale library.  The former gave me a liking for the music of Django Reinhardt plus a detailed knowledge of the deeds, and misdeeds, of the Forsyte family.   The latter gave me memorable book titles like ‘Winston Churchill’s Toyshop’ and accounts of the doings of characters like Sefton Delmer.

As soon as I heard of the appearance of anti-Semitic messages on Facebook pages set up by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, I thought of Delmer, or at least of his spiritual heirs.

In the autumn of 1940, Delmer was recruited by the Political Warfare Executive (PWE) to organize radio broadcasts to Nazi Germany.   The twist in the story was that the broadcasts would undermine Hitler by pretending to originate from fervent Nazi supporters complaining about the way that he was being let down by his underlings.  Pretending to be something you are not and using that as a disguise to undermine your opponent, was Delmer’s forte.

A modern day Sefton Delmer would not need anything so crude or expensive as a 600kW medium wave transmitter to spread discord. In fact his intended victims would open the door and welcome him in by making him a Facebook ‘friend’ without for one moment knowing who he is.  Once ‘inside’ what is easier than to post anti-Semitic messages to discredit not just Corbyn, but all Corbyn supporters.

If this sounds a little far fetched check out these websites all of which offer ‘aged’ Facebook accounts to anyone with the cash to buy.

Whenever Israel and the Palestinians decide to have a go at each other the war isn’t just fought with guns and bullets and the PBI, it’s also fought on social media like Facebook and Twitter, by each side’s cyber-soldiers.  In time we shall no doubt find out whether Russia really did influence the outcome of the Brexit referendum and/or the US presidential election by similar means.

Labour’s superior ability in using social media to get its message across has been been credited with helping to dramatically slash the Tory’s majority at the last election.  Now it is learning that there is no such thing as a free lunch.  Your opponents can play dirty, and they may just be doing it.    

Anyone for ‘snail mail’?

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