March 22, 2019

Veronika Velch explains how dating apps are being weaponized as tools of disinformation

By Jacqueline Isaacs

Evidence is mounting that America’s presidential elections aren't the only ones being impacted by the spread of disinformation. Veronika Velch, associate fellow for national security for the Rainey Center, explains a new case out of Ukraine where a top police official became a victim of “character assassination by means of fake digital avatars.”

In a recent article for Just Security, Velch says, “this disinformation attack is notable for how it dominated a nation’s news cycle, and for how simple it was to carry out… While there is no clear evidence of a Russian connection in the case, the events on Tinder unfolded shortly after the Kremlin... issued a list of 332 Ukrainian individuals and 68 companies it was sanctioning, ostensibly for ‘unfriendly actions’ against Russia.”

In this particular case, a Ukrainian university student posted on Facebook that she had been sexually harassed by a top police official. That post included screenshots of a Tinder conversation which appeared to show the official threatening the student when she declined his sexual advances. However, the Tinder account and conversations turned out to be fake. While investigations are still underway, the main suspects have clear connections to ongoing political campaigns.

Velch explains that this kind of disinformation may be coming to America, saying, “Dating apps are everywhere, and so are the means to represent oneself — or misrepresent someone else — on those platforms. America’s enemies know this.”

Read the full article here.

Also, read Velch’s white paper on the subject, Post-Soviet Disinformation: How Tinder Becomes a Weapon.

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