Clinton calls Russian information war a 'clear and present danger' to Western democracy

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sounded the alarm on the threat of a Russian-waged information war waged for Western democracies in a speech in California on Friday.

Calling Russian information war, or influence operations, a "clear and present danger to our democracy", the former candidate for president gave the example of the use of social media accounts to stir up divisions over race and politics in the US in recent weeks.

"Make no mistake this isn't just about what happened in 2016, it's about what is happening right now," she said in a speech given at the Stanford Centre on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law.

Her address comes as the American public and lawmakers seek answers from Silicon Valley about the effect social media platforms had on US electoral politics.

US congressional committees continue to investigate the role of Russia's online influence on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as search engine Google.

Facebook recently handed over the contents of 3000 advertisements purchased by Russian outfits to influence US political discussion before and after the election and is expected to testify to a panel in November.

The Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner slammed Twitter as "inadequate on every level" in responding to queries about how their platform is exploited by trolls and bots to stir up political trouble abroad.

Most recently, online activists called out Google for allowing information from trolling platform 4Chan to appear as "news" in searches after the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas. Google later said it was making "improvements" to prevent it from occurring again.

Clinton, said she wasn't making excuses for her 2016 loss, amid the probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into whether there was active collusion between US President Donald Trump and the Russia during the campaign.

However, Clinton said it was already clear that Trump took "maximum" advantage of the situation arising from hacked emails related to her campaign being published by WikiLeaks and other outfits. She highlighted how emails hacked from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's account were converted into the PizzaGate conspiracy theory which culminated in a gunmen entering a Washington DC-area pizzeria searching for non-existent trafficked children.

Clinton compared the public's ability to shrug off lies and misinformation to an immune system, like that of a physical body which has an immune system to ward off illness.

The "entire [Russian] operation was especially successful because our country's natural defences have been worn down by years of powerful right-wing interests broadcasting - dare I say? - fake news."

Asked in a question and answer session what happened to Americans' belief in truth, she described an "industry of fabrication" for gaining commercial, political and ideological advantage in the US, which has been "accelerated by advances in our technology."

"I feel like we were somewhat weakened over the last few years to the point that the way the Russians...knew there might be a vulnerability they could take advantage of."

The deepening reach of authoritarian nations' influence operations has become a matter of concern in Australia, where a recent Fairfax Media/ABC report explored alleged efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to influence Australia's federal politics.

This story Clinton calls Russian information war a 'clear and present danger' to Western democracy first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.