16

Today the BBC broke a story stating that

A network of social media accounts... has also spread false news stories online...

The accounts, which have been linked to Russia, used ... other open-access websites to publish and promote fake stories, highly partisan content and conspiracy theories.

BuzzFeed and the question-and-answer website Quora have removed some material ...

BBC News

It strikes me that this is the first time a structured Q&A site (Quora) has been targeted - as far as I know.

While Quora is less structured than the Stack Exchange sites, and, I gather, has slightly less strict moderation, I can imagine the same happening on sites in the Stack Exchange network.

Has Stack Overflow (the company) removed any accounts, content or both from any of the sites in the network as part of any investigations into Russian influence?

3
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 3:30
  • I guess, if at all, the politics.beta would be a target for such activities. so maybe your question would be a better fit there: politics.meta.stackexchange.com
    – GhostCat
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 9:12
  • 1
    @GhostCatsaysReinstateMonica I imagine that would be one of a number of targets but a) I think there’s other targets and b) I’m asking SE, rather than the mods of any individual site.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 9:19

3 Answers 3

19

While we don't generally go into details - as far as the mod grapevine goes I've not heard of any such thing. We would certainly be buzzing over something like this happening.

Admittedly most of the network is probably boring as far as global influence psyops go.

One of the advantages of SE as it is is - it is rarely a primary source, and a significant number of sites deal with content that are of little or no interest to - to put it mildly - professional trolls.

The fact that we don't do "news stories", most sites that deal with subjective content or political content have "back it up" rules and quite frankly, when motivated, our core users are properly pedantic enough - at least in theory - to catch up on things that mods might miss.

So practically? Unless its been super hush hush - I don't think so. That said, I doubt that there's enough value for trolls. In addition, they'd need to work out somehow to sneak in QA pairs without anyone noticing, which is a little trickier than simply carefully flooding poorly curated sites with disinformation.

8

Given how the Stack Exchange networks operate, I would believe that any site which deals with subjective topics already has a precise and definitive way to deal with any one agent (or any multiple agents) attempting to spread propaganda or unproven theories.

That is to say, I really can't imagine it being something of a problem with the community doing what it naturally does - removing crap.

9
  • Which is sort of my point. These "fake" accounts are not going to have the reputation required to prevent their contributions, that are spreading fake information, from being deleted by those users that do. There are enough users who will raise flags on those contributions that the community moderators can handle it.
    – Ramhound
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 19:08
  • 9
    IMO "removing crap" is not precise enough & too complacent. Politics.SE is hosting "There are a number of oddities in the handling of the Skripal case, including the fact that the victims are seemingly completely isolated now from both press and family and why one of the presumably most deadly poisons in the world, applied by presumably agents of a superpower secret service failed to actually kill. There are more oddities that a quick Google search will reveal." in an answer, currently at only -1 votes. In context it's crap and yet not removed.
    – sourcejedi
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 19:12
  • 6
    As I’ve said in the comments- why do you think SE is so much better at preventing this than Quora? They’re different, but still use the same community moderation systems
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 19:19
  • 2
    @sourcejedi: Every site is free to define "crap" in any way it sees fit. If you have an issue with their questions, take it up on their Meta site.
    – Makoto
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 19:55
  • 1
    @Tim: I believe there's two factors at play - Stack Exchange does a lot of work in the way of empowering the community to establish its own rules of play, and it also empowers those same users to take action against content that either violate SE's CoC, their own policies, or both. I don't use or care for Quora so I don't make any comparisons to it; however, even with that said, I still find it a mental stretch to presume that someone could spread propaganda on a site which offers more subjective discussions without it being sniffed out - either by the community or by the diamond mods.
    – Makoto
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 19:57
  • 5
    @Ramhound On politics.SE, we have trolls that have enough rep to reopen or undelete questions, edit tag wikis, etc. Sure they get banned every once in a while, but after a couple of weeks/months they are back. The issue is that upvotes count a lot more than downvotes; post a couple of low effort/quality partisan answers with a couple of accounts, and you'll easily collect enough rep to potentially steer the direction of the site. Other sites of interest for this - which may take more effort - might be skeptics or history. I'm not saying there is a coordinated effort, but it would be doable.
    – tim
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 21:10
  • In that case, @tim - maybe that kind of behavior should be flagged for a CM to intervene and deal with. If it's routine enough that it can be taken advantage at that level, then the CM team definitely needs to get involved to put an end to that kind of trolling if the community does not wish to support it.
    – Makoto
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 21:11
  • 1
    @Makoto I disagree that they’re free to define rubbish how they see fit. This is a prime example of where I would hope SE would refuse to allow - I would hope SE don’t allow sites to host Russian propaganda...
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 21:37
  • 3
    @Makoto and the story @tim tells is exactly what I’m concerned with. In fact, that’s essentially what I’m asking-“ - have the CM team had to suspend multiple accounts participating in a coordinated misinformation campaign.`
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 21:39
-2

If accounts breaks the rules of the SE network sites then it will be take measures to them in accordance of their offences. If accounts doesn't do it than on what basis they will be removed or their content? Only on assuming of someone's thought is not enough otherwise we can say "farewell" to one of the main democracy columns such as legitimacy.

4
  • 4
    I'm not sure what is trying to be said here, but, while this question is tagged discussion, it's rather more asking for an official answer, than someone pontificating.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 0:14
  • 1
    @Tim you are so friendly, it's so nice. And what about your wish to get the answer only from official persons you always can use this link: meta.stackexchange.com/contact
    – edem
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 0:40
  • 1
    @Tim I'd take one point: on an international site, there might be more thoughtful ways to write "Russian influence" e.g. in the title. We want to let Russians feel welcome and indeed "influence" the site (and we like to use furry Russian hats :-P), v.s. we might have to defend against Russian state influence (direct or indirect). The tradeoffs can differ e.g. for the title of a politics question which is clearly about a US context, as the shorthand would generally be better understood there.
    – sourcejedi
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 16:10
  • 1
    @sourcejedi the articles I cited are not claiming state influence, hence I’m not either. I agree that there many be a better title, but I’m interested in any coordinated Russian influencing. Not just state related.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 16:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .