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Russian Trolls Manipulated Top Social Networks to Influence Election

Saint Basil's Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow, Russia

The Kremlin and its trolls went out of their way to ensure Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election, found a report commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee and obtained by The Washington Post. Although they provided the government with data, Facebook, Twitter and Google could have been more involved by delivering more valuable data and in friendlier format, the Committee said.

“What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump,” the report says, according to the Post. “Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting.”

The Committee commissioned New Knowledge and Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika were to prepare two reports on the social media activity related to Russian interference and disinformation campaign in 2016. They believe there are far more Russian accounts posing as American, as they weren’t able to identify them.

After analyzing 10 million tweets, 116,000 Instagram posts and 61,500 Facebook posts, all linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), it was confirmed that Russian intelligence infiltrated every major social media platform, activity that significantly increased immediately after the outcome of the presidential election to consolidate Trump’s win.

Other findings include the discovery of 44 Twitter accounts impersonating US local news organizations, fake profiles masquerading as black activist groups that went as far as interviewing citizens, and other initiatives aiming “to erode trust in mainstream media,” according to CNN. Russia’s goal was to further divide American society through targeted messages.

“Our singular focus is to improve the health of the public conversation on our platform, and protecting the integrity of elections is an important aspect of that mission,” a Twitter spokesperson said. “We’ve made significant strides since 2016 to counter manipulation of our service, which includes our release of additional data in October related to previously disclosed activities to enable further independent academic research and investigation.”

About the author

Luana PASCU

From a young age, Luana knew she wanted to become a writer. After having addressed topics such as NFC, startups, and tech innovation, she has now shifted focus to internet security, with a keen interest in smart homes and IoT threats. Luana is a supporter of women in tech and has a passion for entrepreneurship, technology, and startup culture.

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