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Russians orchestrated several social media platforms in massive operation to influence U.S elections

December 17, 2018

Two third-party research groups detailed how Russians agents orchestrated a massive manipulation of American social media platforms in their attempts to influence U.S. elections.

Reports from Oxford University/Graphika and New Knowledge prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee found that Russia’s Internet Research Agency reached tens of millions of American users on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Instagram, a subsidiary of Facebook, was by far the hot spot for the Russian actors.

New Knowledge found there were approximately 187 million engagements on that site because of “memes,” compared to the estimated 77 million on Facebook and about 73 million on Twitter.

“Our assessment is that Instagram is likely to be a key battleground on an ongoing basis,” the report read.

But that report found that other platforms were also involved, such as the former video-sharing app Vine and even the viral game Pokmon Go.

In particular, both reports acknowledge that black communities were targeted in an attempt to convince to protest the election or incorrectly cast their votes.

According to the Oxford report, a similar tactic is being used on Mexican Americans and other Hispanic groups to sway them into mistrusting the government.

“Increasingly, we’ve seen how social media platforms intended to foster open dialogues can be used by hostile foreign actors seeking to manipulate and subvert public opinion,” Sen. Richard Burr, the Intelligence Committee chairman, said in a statement.

“As we work to address these threats, these reports are proof positive that one of the most important things we can do is increase information sharing between the social media companies who can identify disinformation campaigns and the third-party experts who can analyze them.”

The New Knowledge report found that Russians actively pushed messaging to suppress voter turn out by stoking confusion over voting procedures and promoting 3rd party votes.

It also described that the actors had a clear bias for then-candidate Trump and made a conscious effort to take down his primary opponents and current foes like former FBI director James Corey and special counsel Robert Mueller.

The opposite happened for Hillary Clinton, who was trolled by the actors as they promoted her Democratic rivals Sen. Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein.

Both reports concluded that the Russian efforts to influence Americans through social media aren’t over.

After Russian operations were discovered, the Oxford team found that engagement actually increased and targeted younger voters.

Sen. Mark Warner, the Intelligence Committee vice-chairman, called for Congress to step in and find a solution to social media’s vulnerabilities.

“These attacks against our country were much more comprehensive, calculating and widespread than previously revealed,” he said in a statement. “This should stand as a wake up call to us all that none of us are immune from this threat, and it is time to get serious in addressing this challenge. That is going to require some much-needed and long-overdue guardrails when it comes to social media.”

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