US veterans, current service members and their families are being targeted online with malware and by foreign entities and influence campaigns, and the government isn't doing enough to stop it, a new report says.
The study by Vietnam Veterans of America, a non-profit that advocates for and serves the needs of all veterans, documents a myriad number of ways veterans are impersonated and targeted online -- particularly on Facebook. In at least one instance, they've been targeted by influence campaigns from foreign governments.
Russia's Internet Research Agency, for instance -- the "troll factory" with ties to the Russian government that creates content to push divisive messages on American social media -- purchased more than a hundred online ads targeting US service members and veterans, the study found. It also specifically purchased ads focused on people who followed a number of legitimate organizations on Facebook, including Vietnam Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Concerned Veterans for America.
But the sources of the efforts to target veterans was not always clear. The report found numerous other Facebook pages and groups, often with moderators who were listed in countries like Russia (though not necessarily tied to the IRA) and "with concentrations in Eastern Europe and Vietnam", that follow very similar trends.
One Facebook page called Vietnam Veterans, which has been around since at least 2016, posted both photos of VVA's president to imply a relation with the group, and re-posted Russian IRA memes.