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How Americans Became Vulnerable to Russian Disinformation

Social media moguls' disregard for facts may have facilitated Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. But Russia's success in peddling bogus news via Twitter and Facebook exposed more fundamental problems: a poorly educated electorate and a news industry that has become concentrated in ever-fewer hands.

ATLANTA – As the United States marks the first anniversary of President Donald Trump’s election, the question of how Trump won still commands attention, with Russia’s role moving increasingly to center stage. Each new revelation in the investigation of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 campaign brings the vulnerability of the US democratic process into sharper focus.

Last week, Congress unveiled legislation that would force Facebook, Google, and other social media giants to disclose who buys online advertising, thereby closing a loophole that Russia exploited during the election. But making amends through technical fixes and public promises to be better corporate citizens will solve only the most publicized problem.

The tougher challenge will be strengthening institutions that are vital to the functioning of democracy – specifically, civics education and local journalism. Until gains are made in these areas, the threat to America’s democratic process will grow, resurfacing every time the country votes.

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