I find it interesting that most liberal news sites are taking an all or none perspective when it comes to Russian trolls and bots during the 2016 election. According to them, all the troll and bot coverage was totally anti-Hillary. There is no hint of mainstream coverage prior to the election.
I take exactly the opposite perspective, almost all the mainstream media was totally pro-Hillary. I wondered how the right could withstand the extremely biased coverage. I saw everything online as wildly chaotic, all my friends seemed to be inundated by trolls and bots friendly to their political perspective, left or right. What was being forwarded on Facebook echoed everybody’s political perspective. Even then, nothing made sense, mostly because most of these memes and themes were not based on the truth or reputable sources.
Say, for instance, that the liberal sources are correct and all the bots and trolls were anti-Hillary. If that is the case, does that mean the mainstream media is no longer effective – or even necessary? We know the predictions were wildly off base but weren’t many of those predictions paid for by the mainstream media?
Either the coverage of the Russian election interference is way off or the all or none approach is just plain wrong. It’s probably a combination of the two…
Bottom line, pay attention to what the media is saying, pay attention to their base assumptions. Are they being fair and objective or are alternate perspectives being considered. I mean, how dumb do they think we are? Wait a second, you might not want to answer that.
Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election exposed hundreds of thousands of Colorado voters to misinformation and propaganda through media outlets and social networks, a new analysis of Twitter data shows.
The majority of the Colorado-related messages broadcast by Russia-linked Twitter accounts appeared to favor Republican Donald Trump and foster discontent in the nation’s political system, according to a Denver Post review of more than 200,000 tweets sent by the Kremlin-backed operation. And more than a dozen of the posts appeared in news stories published by Colorado media organizations before and after the election, further extending their reach.
The analysis offers a glimpse into how Colorado voters became a target in the Russian effort and echoes an indictment Friday from special counsel Robert Mueller that says Russia tried to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”
Two of the 13 Russian nationals charged in the indictment allegedly visited Colorado in June 2014 as part of an effort to gather intelligence and target so-called purple states that decide presidential elections. Democrat Hillary Clinton won Colorado by a margin of 5 percentage points, despite significant efforts by the Trump campaign to win the state in the final weeks before Election Day.
The Russians conducted what they called “information warfare against the United States of America,” the 37-page indictment states, using “fictitious U.S. personas on social media platforms and other internet-based media.”
The strategy is evident in a database of 202,973 tweets published by NBC News that are linked to thousands of accounts created by Russian operatives that Twitter identified to congressional investigators and labeled as “malicious activity.” The company suspended the accounts and deleted the tweets from public view, but the news organization compiled a list using archived data.
The bogus accounts — part of the propaganda circulated by the Russian government-funded Internet Research Agency — impersonated U.S. political activists and drew 2.1 million retweets and nearly 1.9 million favorites, according to NBC News. The indictment states that the messages reached large audiences by targeting pro-Trump hashtags, such as “MAGA,” “Trump2016” and “Hillary4Prison.”
It’s difficult to tell how many Colorado users interacted with the Russian accounts or amplified their messages on Twitter. But The Post’s review of the database shows the Russian trolls took interest in the state’s political news, sending hundreds of tweets about Colorado and retweeting local conservative activists when the message dovetailed with their propaganda.
The Mueller indictment said the operation “primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”
The Colorado-related tweets — sometimes reshared through the state’s political Twitter hub #copolitics — fit the same pattern in an attempt to manipulate the conversation. The Russian accounts promoted tweets from Colorado that showed good poll numbers for Trump and long lines to attend his campaign rallies in Colorado. One troll helped distribute a fake news story about a Trump supporter being attacked outside a Colorado rally and another circulated messages that appeared to demonize Muslims.
Other times, the Russians retweeted Colorado conservatives who attacked Clinton about the FBI investigation into her emails and suggested she helped rig the party primary to defeat Sanders.
In a moment of irony, one fake account retweeted a message from Rick Turnquist, a Colorado political activist, who wrote on Twitter, “Fear and Loathing on the campaign trail: the invasion of the out of state Hillbots” — a reference to fake, or bot, Twitter accounts promoting the Democratic candidate.
In an interview before the indictment, Turnquist said he was surprised to learn a Russia–linked account shared his post. But at the same time, he’s not surprised by the outside intrusion into the presidential race. “I completely believe that the Russians are capable of interfering in our elections and they probably do,” he said.
Turnquist, a libertarian who reluctantly voted for Trump, said Russian attention on Colorado makes sense. “Colorado is a key state in terms of the culture wars and the fight between left and right and how we are going to go,” he said. “I don’t know what the Russians would try to gain in messing with Colorado politics, but I can see why they would be interested.”
The Russia-linked tweets appeared in more than 3,000 stories by media organizations across the globe, including 14 in Colorado in 2016 and 2017, according to data shared by NBC News. The Post was not included in the list.
The news organizations did not appear to know the tweets came from bogus accounts, but still represented the information as reaction to the current events from a real person. The majority of the stories in question were produced by others, such as The Associated Press, but appeared on the websites of Colorado media outlets, including The Gazette in Colorado Springs.
Three USA Today stories published by the Fort Collins Coloradoan included the counterfeit tweets in the body of text, including one about a Denver-based Secret Service agent who questioned whether she would take a bullet for Trump and another headlined, “The Internet thinks Hillary Clinton has a body double.”
More recently, KDVR Fox News 31 in Denver published a story in February 2017 about reaction to photos of Kellyanne Conway, a Trump adviser, kneeling on an Oval Office couch. The Russia-linked account @Jenn_Abrams was featured twice in the story defending the Trump administration.
The Russians’ ability to use the mainstream media, through Twitter, to spread their messages in Colorado parallels the findings of a new report from social media researcher Jonathan Albright at Columbia University, who studied the broader Twitter data set.
“Trolls are using real news — and in particular local news — to drive reactionary news coverage, set the daily news agenda and target local journalists and community influencers to follow certain stories,” he wrote in his report.