The American press is awash with reporting on how fake news is flooding the Internet, and may have impacted the U.S. election. Blatantly false articles designed to stoke partisan passions on both sides generated clicks, ad revenue and righteous outrage that could be manipulated to serve political ends.
But while the 2016 may be the year that fake news on the Internet became the news, the outbreak of the fighting in Eastern Ukraine in 2014 was the first time it was weaponized in full public view.
It is natural, of course, that Russian media would have its own perspective on a conflict pitting ethnic Russians against Ukrainians. Accurate information is exceedingly difficult to obtain out of any armed conflict, and both loyalists and rebels in Ukraine engaged in “information warfare” and its fabrications.
What is not “natural” — or at least, naturally-occurring — is the concerted state-sponsored effort by the Kremlin to manufacture false news stories and commenters and push them through both official and unofficial outlets under its direction and control in order to enable Russian foreign policy objectives.
The methods pioneered in 2014 were a harbinger of the deluge that struck Europe and the United States in 2016.