Senate Reports Millions Of Social Media Posts Part Of Russian Disinformation Plot To Aid Trump In ElectionDecember 18, 2018
The report includes data never before released to the public on the breadth of Russian involvement in the election.
On Monday, the Senate Intelligence Committee will release two separate reports that indicate the scope of the Russian social media campaign during the 2016 presidential election. The two reports detail exactly what social media measures were employed by the Russian campaign to directly influence the results of the election. Much of the information is being disclosed to the public for the very first time, according to CNN.
The sheer size of the campaign is what sticks out in both reports which were commissioned by the committee. According to reports, over 10 million tweets, 116 Instagram posts, 61,000 Facebook posts, and more than 1,000 videos were posted by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian government-linked troll group.
In one report prepared by New Knowledge, a firm devoted to tracking and identifying misinformation as it is spread online, the impact of the campaign spread far beyond social media websites. In some instances, the IRA compelled Americans to hand over personal information or even perform tasks for them, all without ever revealing their true identity.
The Russians behind the campaign also attempted to hack online voting systems to alter the final results, and even stole emails from Donald Trump’s opponent Hilary Clinton. This is what led to what is being termed a “controlled leak via Wikileaks,” as stated in the report.
Another report done by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project alongside Graphika, a social media analysis firm, stated that the IRA had “launched an extended attack on the United States by using computational propaganda. The report shows that over 30 million people shared content created by the IRA on social media from 2015 through 2017.
The Oxford report states that all these efforts were directed to help Trump during key moments in the campaign, including debates and conventions. There was an additional surge of social media posts during Election Day as well — all targeted to promote Trump and take down his opponent.
The key goals of the IRA during the campaign were laid out by the Oxford report, including spreading conspiracy theories, encouraging African-American voters to boycott the election, undermining Latino voters’ faith in the American government, and encouraging political activity in extreme right-wing voters. The trolls even pushed those with extremist politics to be more confrontational with people who disagreed with them.
All the reports indicate a clear bias in favor of Trump, with only one single post in favor of Clinton being reported. That post was directed at Muslims, encouraging them to support her at a rally.
The White House has not responded to the reports or their findings as of this writing.
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