New Senate report details extent of Russia's 2016 disinformation campaign

US Presidential poll 2016,Russian meddling,Donald Trump
U.S. Senate to publish report detailing scope of Russian meddling in 2016 U.S. election

19 December, 2018

The reports are based on data turned over by Facebook, Twitter and Google and significantly expand the extent of the meddling that Americans have alleged was carried out by the Internet Research Agency, a St Petersburg company, under the directions of the Russian government to help Trump win.

The reports were crafted chiefly on the basis of data provided by social media companies to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is conducting an investigation into Russia's interference in 2016.

Another major takeaway from both studies is the breadth of Russian interference that appeared on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook and was not frequently mentioned when its parent company testified on Capitol Hill.

Of the five most-retweeted IRA Twitter accounts, "four focused on targeting African-Americans", the Oxford and Graphika report says. The report says there were a number of posts expressing support for Assange and Wikileaks, including several in October 2016, just before WikiLeaks released hacked emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Senator Mark Warner, the committee's top Democrat, said, "These reports demonstrate the extent to which the Russians exploited the fault lines of our society to divide Americans in an attempt to undermine and manipulate our democracy".

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Following the New Knowledge report, Warner expressed his frustration with United States tech companies and called for stricter regulation of social media. "Only votes matter to Hillary Clinton". It notes that IRA posts on the photo-sharing platform received 187 million engagements, which dwarfed the 76.5 million engagements that IRA posts received on Facebook.

The Post obtained a draft of the report, compiled by Oxford University's Computational Propaganda Project. The New Knowledge analysis also said Russians surprisingly started to use Instagram more heavily after Trump was elected, and that the most popular posts "praised African-American culture and achievement".

Oxford/Graphika said the Russians spread "sensationalist, conspiratorialist, and other forms of junk political news and misinformation to voters across the political spectrum".

"It voices absolutely general charges and accusations and some of them are absolutely unclear to us", Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

The Oxford study notes that peaks in Internet Research Agency advertising and organic activity - or posts, shares and comments by users - often corresponded with important dates on the US calendar, crises and worldwide events.

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