There was a recent hard-fought referendum in Ireland about abortion rights. Both sides were active participants on social media with extensive paid campaigns, especially on Facebook. But 48 percent of the ads were promoted by pages that were administered from abroad. You might like to know who was behind them, right? Corporate communicators concerned about orchestrated campaigns organized in the Deep Webnow have ways to identify the source of disinformation.
One of them, Storyful, is a social media intelligence agency owned by News Corp. that built its business separating fact from fiction on social media for newsrooms around the world like The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Now it also serves corporations and PR firms that are attempting to make sense of misinformation and manage its impact. It is one of the few organizations with elevated access to the APIs of important platforms such as Snapchat and Facebook. But more importantly, it has developed tools allowing its journalists and analysts to search and scrutinize the fringe networks of the Deep Web, which is any website that cannot be accessed through the usual search engines of Google or Bing, with content that has not been indexed.
The Dark Web, a portion of the Deep Web, has graduated from its initial function of illicit and illegal activities, such as murder for hire, sale of deadly poisons, or fake passports. Now it is the hotbed of false political and corporate news which then spreads to fringe networks, social platforms and then to mainstream media. In the past week alone, Storyful has discovered over 1,700 threads in Reddit referencing posts on 4Chan, 8Chan, EndChan, Voat and Gab.
I met last night with Sharb Farjami, who runs Storyful. Here are a few important observations for communicators:
Brands and corporations are now in the center of the political discussion, whether on business matters such as trade or social issues such as immigration. In the battle for truth, a company must make its voice heard as quickly as it can. It’s a necessity to get out in front of a situation rather than play from behind. Whether it is Storyful or similar platforms, it is vital to identify and combat the flow of disinformation.
Richard Edelman is president and CEO.