Russian Trolls Peddling Fake News To Derail U.S. Polls Again
Back in 2016, an army of Russia-backed PR firms trooped to social media to shrink progressive and minority support for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.
Now it seems they’re back with more fake accounts and diversionary tactics to tilt the November polls in favor of President Donald Trump’s reelection.
According to the New York Times, both Facebook and Twitter have come forward with evidence to prove something that intelligence agencies have been flagging for months: that Russians are trying to meddle in U.S. politics once again.
Through a site called Peace Data, Russian trolls are peddling conspiracy theories to steer left-leaning voters away from the Biden-Harris campaign.
The Real Victims
“The English-language content on Biden and Harris was noteworthy for its hostile tone,” according to a report by network analysis firm Graphika. “One article by a guest writer accused the pair of ‘submission to right-wing populism as much about preserving careers as it is winning votes.”
“The operation seemed designed to divide Democratic supporters and to depress support for Biden and Harris,” explained Camille François, chief innovation officer for Graphika.
While the fringe website did not gain as much reach like the ones that figured in the elections of 2016, this year’s campaign came with a worrying element: actual American freelancers writing for the sites.
“The website employed real and apparently unwitting individuals, typically novice freelance writers, to write its articles,” Graphika said in an interview with NPR. “The freelancers are really the victims here. They didn’t know what they were signing up for. The youngest were fairly soon out of college.”
Facebook and Twitter have both removed accounts linked to Peace Data and other Russian-backed sites spreading stories to manipulate left-leaning voters.
Facebook said it has suspended 13 accounts and two pages that combined for about 14,000 followers. For its part, Twitter took down five accounts and is still on the lookout to block any content connected to the Russian Internet Service Agency (IRA)
"Regardless of the low-level impact in this case, governments around the world must stop these practices. They're antidemocratic. Attempts to manipulate our service to undermine democracy — by both foreign and domestic actors — will be met with strict enforcement of our policies," Twitter said in a statement.