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Russian misinformation and meddling can continue to undermine elections – if we let it

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – He once, reportedly, stood alongside his cart offering hot dogs to passersby in St. Petersburg, Russia. But now, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is now an important man who seemingly occupies an influential position within the Putin administration.

Earlier today, the Associated Press reported that Prigozhin said that he had meddled in U.S. election before and will continue to do so.

“Gentlemen, we have interfered, are interfering and will interfere. Carefully, precisely, surgically and in our own way, as we know how to do,” Prigozhin boasted in remarks posted on social media, the AP reported.

Prigozhin, has at one time operated successful restaurants while also operating catering companies. According to the AP, Prigozhin has contracts to supply food to various public schools in Russia.

Putin’s chef, as Prigozhin has been called, was indicted by the FBI in 2018 as part of the Mueller probe into election meddling that may have influenced voters in the United States to support then candidate Donald J. Trump.

In 2018, Prigozhin was linked to the Russian troll factory, the Internet Research Agency, that posted misinformation on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Prigozhin’s post on social media is suspect because of the timing. Released on the eve of the U.S. midterm elections, the post might cause confusion. The post could diminish the belief that elections are held fairly and that election result can be trusted.

Trusting election results is not just a problem that is isolated to the United States. Last month, Jair Bolsonaro lost the presidential election of Brazil to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. During his single term in Office, Bolsonaro, according to the New York Times, was responsible for the destruction of large parts of the Amazon while also undermining election procedures and democracy in Brazil.

For the moment, social media has permeated our lives and indeed many people rely upon it for their news consumption. However, like any new fad, there are ebbs and flows – what is old becomes new again.

There will be a day when social media, with its’ micro-targeting of campaign ads, ability to sell a person’s private information to the highest bidder, and lack of oversight, will be a thing of the past.

Until then normal people will have to wade through the muck of misinformation to get to the truth. Researchers at MIT Sloan have outlined a few best practices for us normal folks to combat misinformation and get to the truth:

  • Think about the accuracy of the post or article you’re reading
  • Look at how advertising works on the site
  • Source multiple sites for information – get out of your comfort zone here
  • Be open-minded

While it will be difficult to expose all forms of misinformation, realizing that misinformation exists is the first step we all have to take.

Some content and info provided by google images, AP, The New York Times, and Newsweek.

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