- One of the lead authors of a report on Russia’s social media troll campaign during the 2016 campaign was part of a group that conducted a false-flag project in Alabama in 2017.
- Renee DiResta, the lead author, has previously stated that she left bailed from the group after getting suspicious about its structure.
- The Federal Election Commission has yet to determine what role DiResta’s group — New Knowledge — had in trolling Alabama voters.
The lead author of a report Tuesday on Russia’s social media blitz of the 2016 U.S. election was involved with a Democratic-led group that engaged in a troll campaign targeting an Alabama election in 2017.
Russian military hackers who swiped sensitive materials from the Democratic Party in 2016 struggled to spread the contents online, according to an analysis conducted by Renee DiResta, a researcher at Stanford Internet Observatory. DiResta previously worked for New Knowledge (NK), a group reportedly responsible for a false-flag operation targeting Alabama’s special election in 2017.
DiResta’s report, which was prepared via an analysis of data Facebook provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee, found that the hackers attempted to distribute the documents as early as June 2016 through a Facebook post that linked to a DCLeaks page that generated only 11 likes and 17 shares. The hackers’s materials began to pick up steam only after WikiLeaks joined the effort, the report notes.
The report found that Russian hackers created phony think tanks, news organizations and fake online personas and promoted racially divisive content online. Former special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 members of the Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU in 2018 for their alleged role in the caper.
The email leaks eventually spread widely enough to prompt former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Donna Brazile to resign as some of the documents suggested the DNC favored former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign over the upstart Democratic bid Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders formulated.
Tuesday night’s report is called “Potemkin Pages & Personas: Assessing GRU Online Operations, 2014-2019” and is the brainchild of DiResta, who left NK in April, according to her LinkedIn account. She also worked as part of the Technical Advisory Group for the Senate Intelligence Committee. DiResta became involved in a media firestorm in January when reports suggested one of the groups she worked with was involved in a project to flip the Alabama election.
Democratic operatives created a disinformation campaign exploiting concerns that former senatorial candidate Roy Moore would reimplement prohibition, reports from January show. The operation was designed to hurt Moore and help his opponent, Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, according to media reports at the time.
Jones, who narrowly defeated Moore, has previously stated that his campaign was unaware of the project and is also calling for an investigation into who is behind the antics. Analysts believe allegations that Moore sexually assaulted underage women three decades earlier likely played a larger part in his loss.
The cost of the effort cost roughly $100,000 — the identical amount Facebook says the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) spent trolling people on social media leading up to the 2016 presidential election. (RELATED: NYT Finds More Evidence Of ‘Social Media Trickery’ In Alabama Senate Race)
Project Birmingham was a product of activist Mikey Dickerson’s startup, American Engagement Technologies, also known as AET. Dickerson, who worked on former President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, sought to fight back against those who he believes torpedoed Clinton, DiResta told Washington Post reporters in January about the AET project.
“There was a feeling after the Trump election that Democrats hadn’t prioritized tech, that Republicans had built this amazing juggernaut machine,” said DiResta, who briefly advised AET before becoming worried about the group’s lack of transparency. “The right wing was running a meme war, and there were these crazy dirty tricks. People wanted to build countermeasures.”
NK, a group affiliated with Dickerson, was also involved in the bit. Operatives for the group created thousands of Twitter accounts posing as Russian bots to boost the election-year chances of Jones — the accounts began following Moore’s Twitter account in October 2017. The project created a slew of Facebook accounts as well that were designed to troll conservatives into opposing Moore.
The Federal Election Commission has not revealed whether or not it is investigating the Alabama campaign.
DiResta has not yet responded to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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