Source of misinformation fuelling US-Mexico border crisis

In 2021, experts in cybersecurity and migration drew attention to the role of unchecked social media platforms in fueling the migration crisis on the US-Mexico border.

These platforms, including Facebook, not only encouraged illegal migration to the United States but also promote hatred towards migrants through misinformation and disinformation, experts said.

To me, this echoes what happened with the European immigration crisis in 2015 – with misinformation and disinformation acting as a push-pull factor for immigrants and refugees leaving the Middle where the Syrian war was raging for the relative security of Europe.

Russia heavily shaped perceptions around the migrant flows into Europe. This was a moment when Europe’s anti-immigrant and far-right groups went into high gear. The weaponisation of migrants could also be seen in the Belarus-EU border crisis of 2021-22. And along the border of Poland and arguably Finland, too.

Along the US-Mexico border, the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) conducted a study in 2022, exposing the prevalence of false and misleading social media posts targeting migrants. These posts disseminated fabricated information about changes in immigration policy, special regulations for parents and pregnant women, and favorable conditions along migration routes.

This comes as US Air Force General Glen VanHerck said last year that Russia’s GRU had more agents in Mexico than any other country Could they be involved in this sort of messaging?

While the impact of misinformation on border apprehensions remains uncertain, a CNN story from 2021 highlighted that misinformation could be contributing to the increase in individuals being apprehended at the border.

Human smugglers were also exploiting social media platforms, particularly Facebook, as revealed by an NBC News report from 2021. These smugglers used social media to connect with migrants and spread false hopes of reaching their desired destinations. The Department of Homeland Security acknowledged the role of smugglers’ misinformation in contributing to the recent surge at the border.

But if this is being fuelled by misinformation, is anyone looking to see if the relavent accounts are administered from far outside the region? Perhaps, by a third party that has an interest in inflaming the situation on both sides of the US-Mexico border?

It’s entirely possible this is organic activity, and awareness, even of innaccurate information, grows with the adoption of new technology, providing migrants more flawed visibility on their forward journey.

But given how contested the geopolitcal situation is elsewhere for the US – isn’t it worth someone looking to see if an outside power has a disruptive role in this affair?

(photo: CC Amyyfory)

Summit for Democracy, a contest against chaos…

…and information disorder, untruths, trolling, disinformation. The virtual event is an effort to resurrect the global language of democracy after its rough start in the new century.

One of the traits of this era is escalating complexity of systems. No form of government knows that better than liberal democracy — just look at the news and social media feeds in a democratic country on any given day.

So it’s crucial in this time that there is a way to conceive of democracy simply, and as a whole.

To discuss democracy as the summit does reminds the public of the organising power of the political system. Not just institutionally, or politically but morally and mentally in a time of information overload.

This podcast discusses the challenges for democracy in the world as we find it in 2021.


China on Ukraine and what it means for next 30 years

As the world holds its breath watching the East-West stand-off over Ukraine take shape, one piece of the puzzle settling into place should come as a relief to all peace-loving people: China is not backing Russia’s move. At least not explicitly – and probably not implicitly either.

“We respect the choice made by the Ukrainian people on the basis of national conditions,” Shen Bo, a counselor at China’s U.N. mission said on February 24 statement.

After Russia began sending troops into Ukraine, the Chinese explained it this way (in the transcript of Xi Jinping’s talk with Putin):

“At present, the situation in Ukraine is highly complicated and sensitive and has regional and global impact…China believes that Russia can coordinate with other parties to push for the political settlement of the issue so as to safeguard regional and world peace and stability. China supports proposals and mediation efforts of the international community that are conducive to reduction of tension.”

In other words, as Edward Luck, quoted in the same FP article notes:

the Ukraine crisis underscores the limits of the partnership between Russia and China. As China emerges as a true global powerhouse, its interests have grown more complex, he said, requiring it to act more nimbly in a world where its allies come into conflict. Russia, meanwhile, remains primarily focused on its stature in its own neighborhood.

As for the US, while the Ukraine crisis presents a credibility issue in Europe – it’s not the historical Cold War all over again – despite all the chatter. The new Cold War is really about China and US. And that competition is less about tanks and planes and more about superfast computers and economies.

Russian – American spats, a list compiled after Russia expelled US journalist David Satter

David Satter, working for US Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Library, has been expelled from working in Russia – the first such case since the Cold War. If anyone asks why this blog is called Cold War Daily, look no further than an incident like this. The tit-for-tat diplomatic retaliation has occurred with increasingly frequency between the US and Russia in recent years. And while the case of David Satter has obvious Cold War echoes (even RFE was created by the US in response to the Communist countries during the Cold War) you have to wonder where this is leading. The US and Russia have clashed over Ed Snowden, the Magnitsky case, the role of Western civil society groups in Russia, and the adoption of Russian ophans by the US.

In the latest incident, according to this Time report, Satter was to pick up his visa at the Russian consulate in Kiev.

When Satter arrived in the Ukrainian capital, however, he says he was informed that his presence in Russia was “undesirable” and that his visa request was denied.

Below is an unofficial list of the recent diplomatic spats and retaliations between Russia and the US

And yet, it would be wrong to characterize this as a full-blown return to the Cold War. Russia actively wants to improve its ailing economy and is willing to do business with American firms.  The US currently relies on Russia to get American astronauts into space. The US offered security assistance to Russia after the recent bombings in Volgograd. So it’s not the iron curtain coming back. But in certain diplomatic circles there has been a distinct chill in the air between the US and Russia. This should be a gentle reminder to Americans that although the US “won” the Cold War (was the last man standing), in the words of the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum “the tactics of the old Cold War are now, at the dawn of 2014, suddenly being deployed in a manner not seen since the early 1980s.”