We have learned a lot about online disinformation — and we are doing nothing

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

In the two years that have passed since the 2016 election, we have learned a lot about malignant disinformation campaigns in Western democracies. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has indicted the Russian operatives who created fake identities and ran targeted advertising on Facebook. The ads themselves — supporting extreme anti-immigration groups and the phony “Army of Jesus” on the one hand, and fake “black lives matter” slogans on the other — have been made public. Reams of words have been written, studies have been made. We know how social media increases polarization, how fact-checking only reaches a narrow audience, how the lack of regulation enables false and opaque political advertisements, how algorithms favor angry and extreme views. Congress, Britain’s Parliament and the European Union have all held hearings to discuss the problem. Facebook and Twitter have taken down some Russian-origin accounts. Continue reading “We have learned a lot about online disinformation — and we are doing nothing”

We must fight harder against homegrown terrorism. But it won’t happen under Trump.

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

Right now, the threat to ordinary Americans from homegrown terrorists, radicalized by racist and nativist conspiracies they read on the Internet, is significantly higher than the threat from Islamist terrorists, radicalized by jihadist conspiracies they read on the Internet. But as a nation, we aren’t going to admit it, and we aren’t going to stop it.

Continue reading “We must fight harder against homegrown terrorism. But it won’t happen under Trump.”

Stop helping demagogues change the subject

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

In Manila, the traffic is so bad that it isn’t worth driving anywhere during the day, because a couple of miles will take a couple of hours. In other parts of the Philippines, only a third of children ever finish primary school. Nevertheless, the loudest political debate in the Philippines, over the past two years, was not about public transportation or public education. Continue reading “Stop helping demagogues change the subject”

In Poland, another blow to the Catholic Church

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

Sometimes works of art – books, plays, movies, songs – can change a culture. But sometimes, they epitomize how a culture has changed. Forty years ago, in October 1978, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was named Pope John Paul II, galvanizing a wave of Catholic and secular activism in Poland that helped bring down a totalitarian regime. But now it’s October 2018. Record numbers of Poles are flocking to see a searing, painful film that condemns the Polish Catholic Church as corrupt and hypocritical. Continue reading “In Poland, another blow to the Catholic Church”

Saudi Arabia’s information war to bury news of Jamal Khashoggi

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

For the past several days, the Saudi Twittersphere has been awash with patriotism. Saudi accounts have tweeted, in Arabic, a “#message of love for Mohammed bin Salman” and encouraged one another to “#unfollow enemies of the nation.” The latter hashtag started trending at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, peaked at about 5 p.m., and by Wednesday had been mentioned 103,000 times.

Continue reading “Saudi Arabia’s information war to bury news of Jamal Khashoggi”

This is why so many journalists are at risk today

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

Twelve years ago this month, Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist whose reporting came too close to the truth about Russia’s war in Chechnya, was gunned down in the elevator of her Moscow apartment block. One year ago this month, Daphne Caruana Galizia, a journalist whose reporting came too close to the truth about corruption in Malta, was murdered by a car bomb next to her house in Bidnija. Seven months ago, Jan Kuciak, a journalist whose reporting came to close to the truth about the mafia’s role in Slovak business, was murdered in his home outside Bratislava. Continue reading “This is why so many journalists are at risk today”

It’s official: Americans are living under the rule of a minority

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

Now that the predictable result has been achieved, it’s worth taking a moment to think about the longer-term impact of the bizarre, emotional events of the past two weeks in Washington. Reasonable people can still disagree about what happened in a house in suburban Maryland in the summer of 1982; reasonable people can even disagree about whether now, more than three decades later, those events should matter. But reasonable people cannot disagree about the political orientation of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. In his testimony, he revealed himself to be an extreme partisan, a Republican Party activist and a man at least willing to bend the truth in public. Continue reading “It’s official: Americans are living under the rule of a minority”

A Warning From Europe: The Worst Is Yet to Come

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

On December 31, 1999, we threw a party. It was the end of one millennium and the start of a new one; people very much wanted to celebrate, preferably somewhere exotic. Our party fulfilled that criterion. We held it at Chobielin, the manor house in northwest Poland that my husband and his parents had purchased a decade earlier, when it was a mildewed ruin. We had restored the house, very slowly. It was not exactly finished in 1999, but it did have a new roof. It also had a large, freshly painted, and completely unfurnished salon—perfect for a party. Continue reading “A Warning From Europe: The Worst Is Yet to Come”

Russian hackers were caught in the act — and the results are devastating

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

Dutch authorities have photographs of four Russian military intelligence (GRU) operatives arriving at the Amsterdam airport last April, escorted by a member of the Russian embassy. They have copies of the men’s passports — two of them with serial numbers one digit apart. Because they caught them, red-handed, inside a car parked beside the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague — the GRU team was trying to hack into the OPCW WiFi system — Dutch authorities also confiscated multiple phones, antennae and laptop computers. Continue reading “Russian hackers were caught in the act — and the results are devastating”

Trump’s new NAFTA is pretty much the same as the old one — but at what cost?

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

More than once, Donald Trump has called the North American Free Trade Agreement “the worst trade deal ever made.” At other times, he has referred to NAFTA as a “bad joke.” As recently as Sept. 1, he claimed the whole thing was unnecessary: “We were far better off before NAFTA — should never have been signed,” he tweeted. Continue reading “Trump’s new NAFTA is pretty much the same as the old one — but at what cost?”