Energy

Congress Says New Evidence Confirms Russia Exploited Social Media To Harm US Energy Markets

The chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology took another step in his investigation into Russian meddling in U.S. energy policy, reiterating to social media executives the need for information on Russian-linked ads.

Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith sent letters to the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. Tuesday, asking them for continued cooperation as evidence mounts that Russian-linked ads also targeted energy policy.

“This recent revelation confirms the Committee’s suspicion: Russia has exploited American social media platforms in an effort to influence the U.S. energy market,” Smith wrote.

Smith’s new evidence primarily consists of a BuzzFeed article on how Russian trolls pushed ads targeting environmental activists.

BuzzFeed highlighted the “Instagram account called @Native_Americans_United_,” which “shared images related to Native American social and political issues — including the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the flashpoint for activists from all over the country, but especially Native Americans.”

It was identified as one of “180 connected to a Russian troll farm intent on exploiting existing divisions and social movements in the United States, based on a major investigation into the operations of Russia’s Internet Research Agency,” BuzzFeed reported.

Smith’s letter comes the same day that employees from Google, Twitter and Facebook testified before a Senate committee on efforts to track Russian-linked ads meant to sow division during the election.

“Congress has a responsibility to bring transparency to social media when their content affects important matters of American public policy,” Smith wrote.

Smith first asked social media companies for information on Russian-linked ads in late September after Facebook turned over $100,000 worth of ads bought by Russian-linked accounts.

Smith asked Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in July to investigate whether or not Russian interests funneled money to environmental groups opposed to oil and gas drilling through a Bermuda-based shell company.

Energy and security experts have for years speculated that Russia funded efforts to attack U.S. energy markets, including hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas. Evidence is mounting that Russians sought to divide Americans on energy issues.

U.S. intelligence officials confirmed in a declassified report released in early 2017 that the state-owned media outlet Russia Today (RT) ran “anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health.”

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