Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Operation Infection 

Author: Sefer Selimi Jr. 

In July 1983, a local Indian newspaper published an article claiming that a U.S. government scientist had created AIDS as a weapon to annihilate African-Americans and LGBT people. This story, which at first glance seems completely absurd and published in a small local newspaper in a corner of the world, should not be a concern. However, just a few years later, the news began to spread rapidly across the African continent. This claim is even covered by a report by two East German scientists who claim that they can prove that AIDS was invented in the USA. Just a few months later, the claim became news in the United States itself, and so the news invaded the world. Today, 50 years later, many people still believe in the veracity of this claim, and you can often hear it as “fact.”

In an emblematic documentary on disinformation, Operation InfeKtion, the New York Times deconstructs the entire process of fabricating and disseminating news by the Russian KGB and sheds light on Department A, which was responsible for counterfeiting, influencing agents and creating false news. This department alone has had more than 15,000 employees in the USSR and beyond with regular daily activities, more than the entire U.S. Department of State. Active measures or ideological subversion, as former Russian agents call it in documentaries, have been intended to change the perception of reality in every American, to the extent that no one, regardless of the degree of information, is able to come to a reasonable conclusion in the interest of protecting themselves, their family, community and state. They, the former agents, also construct other fake news which you have certainly encountered in conspiracy theories, and perhaps even in various movies and documentaries such as the conspiracy theory that the CIA has killed John Kennedy, or that the CIA has attempted to kill Pope John Paul II or that wealthy Americans buy children from Latin America to get their organs. The documentary details the whole process of how fake news published in an irrelevant newspaper is then used by the propaganda media and given resonance and credibility by the masses, hiding responsibility and connection to the KGB so that it is acceptable and trusted by more actors.

This documentary reflects the current situation with misinformation, which according to the former Russian agent in the documentary means deliberately distorted information, which is secretly released in the process of communication to deceive and manipulate public opinion. Although today, this technique is sophisticated with the mass use of social media like Facebook and Twitter, the logic and technique are almost the same. A study by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Laboratory entitled “Operation Infection 2” exposes the similarities of the process and how the old concept finds new ways to be effective. This time through fake Facebook and Twitter profiles, using various online sites and platforms, fictional stories aimed at inciting discord, casting doubt and undermining democracy or relationships with partners – operations that almost certainly stem from Russia and most likely the intelligence agency are following the same trajectory to reach the public.

With the outbreak of pandemic, the infodemy of fake news also erupted. We were all bombarded by conspiracy theories, fabricated news spreading panic and fear among citizens. From the absurd theory that linked the 5G network to coronavirus to the implantation of microchips by Bill Gates. Of course, not all of them are direct products of Russian intelligence agencies, but they have laid the groundwork and concept for a long time and over the years have perfected it, aided by useful idiots and charlatans (for example here and here) who try to exploit the momentum created for fame or profit.


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