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What's Next, Russia?

At the heart of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election was its manipulation of social media in the U.S.

Other than among his most loyal supporters, there is now no doubt that Russia interfered with our elections to benefit Donald Trump.

In fact, the latest revelations from a pair of reports prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee, reveal that in addition to seeking to influence the 2016 general election to help elect Trump, Russia's disinformation boldly targeted special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who became the new president's major threat.

The breadth and depth of the Russian disinformation initiative amount to nothing less than a sophisticated bloodless attack on the United States of America, as these latest reports reveal.

So, what is Russia's next move?

Undoubtedly, they are elated at the chaos their efforts caused, but even they couldn’t have dreamed how destructive their social media disinformation attacks would be. Now, there is another election looming. So, what's next?

The Russians have an opportunity to sow more seeds of discord in the democratic process as they so cynically sliced and diced the U.S. electorate, pitting various factions against one another to help elect Trump in 2016.

One path they could take is to continue supporting this administration. They seem to always be one step ahead of the efforts to stop their flood of social media influences. Right wing news sources constitute a veritable propaganda machine that regularly feeds on divisive rhetoric.

This approach worked quite well for them in the 2016 election, so why mess with it? Why not continue that same strategy as we head into the 2020 presidential election?

The other, more devious and dangerous path might be to throw their support behind a Democratic candidate, thus fueling the paranoia of the right. Trump has already claimed the electoral process is “a rigged system”. (Editor's note: Of course it is. He rigged it.)

But then Trump could use the recent irregularities in North Carolina as an example, even though the wrongdoing is on the Republican side. The ensuing chaos and unrest this approach could cause is unimaginable.

If defeated, Trump might well refuse to concede, throwing the entire country into dangerous grounds. Let’s hope ongoing efforts to shore up online and social media defenses are successful and whatever approach the Russians, or any other foreign adversary might take, is thwarted and unable to sew such seeds of distrust within our society.

As we voters approach the 2020 elections, we must be aware that these efforts may well be attempting to influence us. Let’s be vigilant and support the imposition of safeguards designed to defend against them. The consequences are too frightening to consider.

CJ Waldron is a retired English teacher from upstate New York. An adjunct instructor at Horry Georgetown Technical College, he lives in Conway, SC with his wife, Donna.

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