UPDATE: This piece has been updated to reflect a comment from the State Department.
The State Department announced a reward of up to $10 million for information relating to the “identification or location” of a group of Russian internet trolls, who the department claims interfered with U.S. elections.
The State Department is particularly interested in information relating to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian company that the State Department claims “engaged in political and electoral interference operations,” in a Thursday media note. The Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted the IRA in 2018, for allegedly influencing federal elections, alongside the associated Concord Management and several Russian individuals, who the DOJ alleges funded the IRA.
“We would welcome information about any foreign individuals or entities anywhere in the world seeking to interfere with our elections,” a State Department spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “RFJ’s [Reward for Justice] actions are an important part of the U.S. government’s efforts to ensure the security and integrity of our elections and protect against foreign interference.”
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a 2019 study that questioned the efficacy of IRA activity, claiming that interaction with IRA accounts did not substantially alter the political behavior of monitored accounts over a one-month period.
“[T]hese findings suggest that Russian trolls might have failed to sow discord because they mostly interacted with those who were already highly polarized,” the study states.
Repetitiveness is a defining feature of pro-Kremlin disinformation, as it makes their lies sound more believable. Over the next weeks, we’re bringing you an overview of five key narratives in pro-Kremlin disinfo. Narrative #1: the Elites v the People. https://t.co/Dk5vHwPiTU
— EUvsDisinfo (@EUvsDisinfo) July 29, 2022
The charges against Concord were dropped by the Justice Department in 2020, during one of the few trials associated with the indictment, The New York Times reported. The DOJ alleged that Concord was using the trial to learn how the DOJ investigated foreign misinformation networks, and recommended the charges be dropped in the interest of national security.
The IRA has also been involved in attempts to spread misinformation about the Russo-Ukraine war, according to ProPublica. Several accounts associated with the IRA, took video of a Vienna climate protest, in which protestors covered themselves in body bags but were still visibly alive, and claimed that the video showed Ukrainians faking civilian casualties.
The IRA was responsible for a number of accounts that were extraordinarily popular, and had a particular focus on Instagram, where the IRA used several accounts targeted at black Americans to “exacerbate divisions and stoke resentment” between cultural groups, according to Wired.
Some posts by the IRA on Facebook and Instagram claimed that they were made by Americans, specifically mocking the idea that they were posted by Russians, Wired reported.
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