Veterans group says Trump administration ignoring Russian disinformation targeting troops, vets

Veterans group says Trump administration ignoring Russian disinformation targeting troops, vets
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A major veterans group says the Trump administration of has been ignoring Russian disinformation campaigns that have been targeting U.S. troops and veterans for nearly two years.

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) cautioned the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments in March 2018 that disinformation campaigns aimed at service members could plant seeds for social disagreement, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The group says the agencies have not taken action to combat the campaigns, prompting VVA to submit a letter to President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE on Dec. 18 asking for his intervention, according to an email sent to his veterans liaison that was reviewed by the Post.

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VVA says it has not received an answer to the letter, and it’s unclear if the administration is taking steps against the disinformation campaigns.

A senior administration official told the newspaper that it “works every day to counter malign foreign influence, from identifying and exposing foreign actors to disrupting and imposing costs for these actions.”

The White House told the Post that it has received the letter but did not say what steps, if any, it is taking in response.

The Department of Veterans Affairs declined to comment to the Post on the group's allegations, but spokesperson Randal Noller said in a statement to The Hill that “veterans are the targets of many of the same types of fraud as the rest of society.”

Noller deferred questions about online regulation to the Federal Communications Commission and questions about social media activity to the pertinent companies.

A Defense Department spokesperson told The Hill that the Pentagon works with social media companies to "pull down fake accounts and the like."

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A study by VVA published in September found foreign institutions were targeting veterans with memes, political comments and fake news articles that celebrated veterans and criticized liberals and minorities.

The disinformation comes from at least 32 countries, with the Russian Internet Research Agency buying at least 113 online ads during and after the 2016 election. The study concluded the campaigns, mostly conducted on Facebook, have a goal of “disrupting American democracy.”

Updated at 12:21 p.m.