What is stopping the US from doing something to filter out such attacks.
I’m interested in the legal, technical and geopolitical reasons, but also whether it’s even a good idea.
In the pre-industrial era, yeoman craftsmen (think Paul Revere) would hire a person to read them history and literature while they worked. In the early industrial era, factory workers imitated this tradition and also published/read dozens of leaflets we might call newspapers. Because this active intellectual life produced crazy ideas like "maybe let's do a union", it was quietly eliminated.
As time passes, we are increasingly conditioned to respond only to "expert" opinion (always conclusory, never persuasive), or emotionally potent oversimplifications intended to manipulate opinion in a particular direction.
When you condition a population to respond to propaganda, and only propaganda, you get predicable consequences.
The remedy is to encourage critical thought by socially rewarding activities like reading and reasoned dissent. Reasoned dissent is particularly unwelcome in communities of highly credentialed "intellectuals".
Could you imagine the Federalist / Anti-Federalist debate playing out today? It's unthinkable.
Given the federal government has usurped much of the states' powers through activist judges and ignoring the constitutional amendment process to comply with the 10th amendment, it would probably result in secession efforts or bloodshed rather than debate.
Because a lot of the types of misinformation that are being spread from abroad (conspiracy theories and dangerous anti-science information) are equally generated and spread from within the country, and by elected officials. If you're just regulating the type of information, you're screwed. You need to regulate where it's coming from, which is much harder on the internet (because it can be faked so easily).
The fact that an ever higher proportion of the population has forsaken traditional, edited media for social media, which is like tabloids on steroids, doesn't help.
Whereas traditional media was typically controlled by local polical and economic interests, social media content, and recommendations, is controlled by internet giants that seem to be guided mostly by profit, and are easily gamed by foreign interests. Authoritarian regimes would never allow this.
Some interests in the west, the very ones that coined the term "fake media", have no qualms about riding this wave.
If you want to be better informed, ignore any social media news and debates, read The Economist and good books. Now, try telling this to the masses.
So the only solution, short of trying to educate the masses, would be for the state to regulate the social internet giants, who maybe have already been allowed to become too powerful for this to happen.
There has been no collapse in the intellectual life of Americans. If anything maybe a peak then moderate decline. The only difference is these platforms.
By what mechanisms could Russia and China influence the US a few decades ago? Substantially more limited.
Strange how it makes no difference who the US President is, Democrat or Republican, the policies always remain the same. The US President has as much actual power as the Queen of England - None!
People in America complain about official narratives, but in China and Russia distributing or even viewing or discussing alternative narratives can lead to imprisonment or worse. It's hard for either internal or external forces to spread non-governmental propaganda for very long. Also, these governments are less reserved and more brazen; NSA surely has private emails of Russian politicians, but it's unlikely they'd ever release them publicly to influence an upcoming election.
In China or Russia, the government can just decide to ban access to Wikipedia, Twitter, and Facebook on a whim. Governmental spies and informants watch chat groups and national social media. Journalists and citizens fear repeating any claim that may upset the government.
However, in the long-term, authoritarianism is probably not very sustainable in peacetime. As education and information increases, it becomes harder to prevent people from wanting more liberties. The US may have collapsed by then, but whether it is or isn't collapsed, assuming no global catastrophes (a big assumption, I know), I predict that in the year 2120 Western ideals will have won globally, and China's and Russia's political systems will be a lot closer to liberal democracies than they are now. If there is a global catastrophe, then the reverse will probably be the case.
Just look at the backlash Facebook and Twitter got the other day for trying to limit the spread of an article. Now imagine what this would look like if it was the US government that tried to limit the spread of certain information.
As a side note, I see a constant theme of American exceptionalism, mostly negative recently, and this seems to me to be a primary feature of the propaganda war. It is foolish to read history or news, and believe that you yourself would have acted differently than any other population-level actor in the same state of information and influence. And if you are absolutely certain otherwise, you can be just as certain that your information is incomplete or just wrong. This should not be surprising when you consider that there is nothing that is sacred from propaganda. Nothing. All lies have value to somebody, most likely not you. If nobody is benefiting from the belief, that may be an indicator of truth, and if somebody is already benefiting from a lie, they will probably censor the truth.
If you want to live in a free pluralistic democratic society without a propaganda infestation, you have to remove the moral hazards of mass influence. Reparations, for instance, and more broadly, torts that give value to speculative or non-financial harm, or punitive damages, especially when the defendant is the state itself, and the award is paid for by the people, by force, with guns. There are less-obvious versions of profiteering from information warfare that involve influence of politicians, perhaps a permissive or anti-competitive regulation, perhaps a direct payout to an industry, or through a population that will spend it predictably, seniors on healthcare, the poor on monopolist retail.
Certainly, yes, the first amendment is an enabler for all kinds of speech including propaganda, but the features of our system that give it value should also be considered, notably perhaps the lack of such such an originalist interpretation of the 10th amendment.
Russia in particular is a main contributor to the misinformation abroad. This isn't just in the US, but also in many eastern european countries.
Of course, as others have stated, strong reasoning skills are not very prominent. I would like to see philosophy of argument courses taught in secondary and even primary schools. The ability to recognize basic fallacies and validate facts/premises would go a long way.
Do you have proof that Russia and China are spreading disinformation within the US? Or do you simply believe what you hear from others, such as the US media and intelligence community?
Take the Russian election interference allegation for example. IP addresses can be spoofed, or traffic intentionally originated from Russian IP addresses while the user is in a different country. Consider that the “evidence” is little more than a text file (traffic logs) that isn’t made public.
Consider that media allegations of “interference” rarely (if ever?) include any examples of said interference.
But of course, they do it skilfully, plausible deniability is the name of the game.
I recommend reading "The Red Web", "Nothing is True and Everything is Possible", and "This is Not Propaganda" to learn more about this phenomenon.
Copying news stories is a common practice in the news industry. US news outlets can republish Russian news for profit rather than as part of a foreign interference campaign.
Just have a look at Sputnik and RT.
Ok, tell me about Olgino and Uighur camps denial.