Russia, U.S. Elections, and the Fake News Cycle


Fake news was a prominent part of the 2016 election cycle, and Americans got a crash course in the ways that foreign powers use propaganda to tamper in elections when the U.S. intelligence community revealed their consensus belief that Russian government hackers interfered in the months leading up to November 2016 to help President Donald Trump secure a victory.  

Now, as dribs and drabs of detail about the relationship between Trump’s associates and Russian president Vladimir Putin continue to leak and are ballyhooed by the American president as “fake news,” it is more important than ever to understand how to separate real news from fanciful fictions.

Although the term “fake news” has been weaponized for political purposes like attacking the credibility of mainstream news organizations that report stories unpopular with the president and his supporters, it was a term that became popular as the 2016 election cycle wound down and the fact that a Russian-sponsored network of bots, trolls and a hodgepodge of dubious web sites collaborated to disrupt the election and in so doing, shake the trust in the groundwork of American democracy. Now that the political party that controls the levers of power has flipped, the opposition is ripe to be the new purveyors of “fake news” and conspiracy theories crafted to drum up mistrust.

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