A Senate Intelligence Committee report published Tuesday on Russia’s election meddling in 2016 determined that Russian trolls played a role amplifying online resistance to President Donald Trump.
Russian trolls at the Internet Research Agency (IRA) were instrumental in stirring up strife inside the U.S. following the election, according to the report, which focuses on social media disinformation. IRA operatives flooded social media with hashtags promoting resistance, the report notes.
“After Election Day, Left-leaning IRA accounts were promoting hashtags such as ‘#Impeach45,’ ‘#Resist,’ and ‘#GunReformNow,'” the report notes, adding that “right-leaning IRA accounts were focused on the NFL kneeling controversy,” as well as hashtags criticizing the FBI.
Russian operatives also tried to play both sides of the field, staging both pro-Trump and anti-Trump rallies. (RELATED: Investigate Steele Dossier As Russian Disinformation, Intel Experts Say)
“A mid-November 2016 rally in New York was organized around the theme, ‘show your support for President-Elect Donald Trump,’ while a separate rally titled, ‘Trump is NOT my President,’ was also held in New York, in roughly the same timeframe,” the report states.
Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina chaired the bipartisan panel that cobbled together the second volume of its report.
“Russia is waging an information warfare campaign against the U.S. that didn’t start and didn’t end with the 2016 election,” Burr, the Intelligence committee’s chairman, said in a press statement Tuesday. Burr has been investigating foreign election meddling for more than two years.
Burr added: “By flooding social media with false reports, conspiracy theories, and trolls, and by exploiting existing divisions, Russia is trying to breed distrust of our democratic institutions and our fellow Americans.”
Former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in April made similar conclusions. IRA created Twitter accounts in the names of fictitious grassroots groups and used them to pose as anti-immigration groups, Tea Party activists, Black Lives Matter protesters, Mueller’s report noted.
The size, scope, and tactics of IRA’s tactics were virtually identical to those a slew of Democratic operatives allegedly used before a 2017 midterm election in Alabama. The IRA kicked off its ploy in 2014, when operatives focused on Facebook and Twitter to tilt voters toward polar positions.
The group Burr’s committee used to analyze Russia’s Facebook activity relied on New Knowledge, a cyber security firm that participated in a social media disinformation campaign during the 2017 special election for the Alabama Senate race between then-senate candidates Democrat Doug Jones and his Republican rival Roy Moore.
The Trump administration is putting measures in place to push back against foreign intervention, White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Unlike the Obama Administration, which allowed foreign adversaries to infiltrate our infrastructure, the Trump Administration has made election security a priority and has taken action,” he said. “This is in sharp contrast to the past Administration who not only knew of attempts to break our election security but did nothing to stop it.”
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