From The College Fix:
Twelve months before the U.S. presidential election, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jarred Prier got a taste of Russia’s covert efforts in American political affairs without recognizing the flavor.
It was November 11, 2015. Prier was in Washington browsing Twitter for news about his alma mater, the University of Missouri, where racial protesters had just succeeded in ousting the university system’s president.
#PrayForMizzou was trending. Backlash against the protesters had escalated fears of violence on campus. Intrigued, Prier began pouring over tweets supportive of Mizzou protesters.
Activists on the ground were sharing minute-by-minute updates of campus, where encamped protesters had claimed the university’s quad as their headquarters.
Still other Twitter users, veiled by pseudonyms, claimed Mizzou’s campus was in the midst of a violent street war.
“The cops are marching with the KKK!” wrote @FanFan1911. “They beat up my little brother! Watch out!” The tweet included a photo of bruised black child, ostensibly the Twitter user’s younger brother.
Like many other alarmist Mizzou-related tweets that day, it appeared to have been widely shared.
The only problem, Prier quickly determined: The photo had been lifted from 2013 news reports of alleged police brutality in Ohio.
He suspected the heightened notice the tweet drew was no accident. In addition to well-meaning users who shared it, the tweet had been boosted by dozens of apparently fake accounts.
In an act of one-off online vigilantism, Prier fired back at @FanFan1911: “[S]top spreading lies.”
It didn’t work.
Mizzou was not embroiled in chaotic street-by-street fighting, but these outwardly authentic social media hoaxes scored an apparent win: goading Mizzou’s student body president into tweeting that the Ku Klux Klan was on campus.