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Russian disinformation team addresses Robert S. Mueller III, the report prepares for the Senate

Tony Romm Staff writer covering technology policy December 17 at 19:41 Months after President Trump took office, Russia's disinformation team trained his views on a new goal: Robert S. Mueller III Special Council. After working to help Trump into the White House, they were now working to neutralize the biggest threat that he stayed there. The Russian operators were charged to Mueller through fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter and beyond who mistakenly claim that the former FBI director was corrupted and that the accusations of Russian involvement in the 2016 election were explosion concerts. A post on Instagram – which appeared to be a particularly powerful weapon in the Russian social media arsenal – claimed that Mueller had previously worked with "radical Islamic groups". Such tactics exemplified how Russian law varied nimbly across social media platforms in a sharp online-influencing operation targeted at US voters. The effort started earlier than usual, and lasted longer while calling forces at different places to manipulate distinct discs of the voter, according to a couple of comprehensive new reports prepared for the Senate Information Committee and released on Monday. One of the reports, written by Oxford University's Computational Propaganda Project and the network analysis company Graphika, became public when The Washington Post received it and published the highlights Sunday. The second report was by the social media research company New Knowledge, Columbia University and Canfield Research. Together, the reports describe the Russian campaign with sweep and detail, not before they are available. The researchers…

Months after President Trump took office, Russia’s disinformation team trained his views on a new goal: Robert S. Mueller III Special Council. After working to help Trump into the White House, they were now working to neutralize the biggest threat that he stayed there.

The Russian operators were charged to Mueller through fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter and beyond who mistakenly claim that the former FBI director was corrupted and that the accusations of Russian involvement in the 2016 election were explosion concerts. A post on Instagram – which appeared to be a particularly powerful weapon in the Russian social media arsenal – claimed that Mueller had previously worked with “radical Islamic groups”.

Such tactics exemplified how Russian law varied nimbly across social media platforms in a sharp online-influencing operation targeted at US voters. The effort started earlier than usual, and lasted longer while calling forces at different places to manipulate distinct discs of the voter, according to a couple of comprehensive new reports prepared for the Senate Information Committee and released on Monday.

One of the reports, written by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and the network analysis company Graphika, became public when The Washington Post received it and published the highlights Sunday. The second report was by the social media research company New Knowledge, Columbia University and Canfield Research.

Together, the reports describe the Russian campaign with sweep and detail, not before they are available. The researchers analyzed more than 10 million posts and messages on all major social media platforms to understand how Russians used American technology to build a sprawling online disinformation machine, where each piece plays a particular role while supporting the others with links and other connections. 19659008] The reports also underline the difficulty of defeating Russian disinformation when operators easily relocated from platform to platform, making the process of detecting and erasing misleading services impossible for a company to manage itself.

Twitter met with political and journalistic elites. Facebook and its advertising targeting tools share voters in demographic and ideological segments that are mature for manipulation, with a particular focus on pushing conservative and oppressing African Americans, which traditionally are more likely to vote for Democrats.

YouTube provided a free online library with more than 1100 disinformation videos. PayPal helped raise money and move political theme goods designed by the Russian law, such as “SERVICES SUPPORT AMERICAN CUSTOMER” T-Shirts. Tumblr, Medium, Vine, Reddit and various other websites also played roles.

“We hope these reports will clarify the American people and policy makers, and clarify the extensive scope of the operation and the long game being played,” said Renee DiResta, Research Director at New Knowledge.

Social media researchers said the vigilance of these sites and services highlighted the broader challenge they face in combating Russia’s and sophisticated online tactics.

“Some of the platforms that do not have much traffic but who still have very committed communities are the most vulnerable to a challenge as inaccurate information,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “They have not resources to devote their platforms to more resilience. “

An unexpected star in the new reports was Monday’s Facebook image agency Instagram. During the years of the information campaign, Instagram created a response to a scale beyond any of the others – with 187 million comments, likes and other user reactions, more than Twitter and Facebook combined.

But it had been least reviewed by major platforms before this week as legislators, researchers and journalists focused more on Facebook, Twitter and Google. Instagram’s use of Russian law more than doubled during the first six months after Trump’s election, researchers found. It also offered access ng to a younger demographic, and was easily in a simple engaging format.

“Instagram’s appeal is what the children are and it seems to be where the Russians went,” said Philip N. Howard, head of the Oxford research group.

The report, based on New Knowledge, found that the Russians published on Instagram 116,000 times, almost twice as many times as they did on Facebook, as documented in the report. The most popular insights featured African American culture and achievement, but the Russians also targeted this community for voter suppression messages on multiple platforms, urge the choice of boycott or disseminate false information on how to vote.

On Monday, NAACP demanded a week-long boycott of Facebook from Tuesday, saying the company’s business practices – and the spread of “abominable depictions of African American society” on the spot – should lead to further congressional investigations.

Facebook said in a statement that it has “made progress in preventing interference on our platforms during the election, strengthening our policy against voter suppression before the 2018 middle-term, and funding independent research into the impact of social media on democracy.”

Reddit and Medium did not respond immediately upon request for comments. Tumblr pointed to a November blog post, which said that the company took down Russian-related disinformation before the year’s election. PayPal said it “works to combat and prevent illegal use of our services.” Twitter said it has made “significant progress since 2016 to counteract the manipulation of our service”.

The emergence of Mueller as an important goal also highlights the adaptability of the Russian campaign. He was appointed as Special Council in May 2017 to investigate allegations of Russian influence on the Trump campaign. In that role, he accused of criminal charges a Kremlin-linked trollgarden called the Internet Research Agency and others connected to the information campaign.

A research group from Clemson University, who is not affiliated with any of the reports released on Monday, found that the Russians tweeted about Mueller more than 5,000 times, including the court’s first posted by others. Some required him to shoot, while others scorned him as incompetent and still fought against the end of his “complete false investigation”.

The New Knowledge report highlighted Mueller and kicked the FBI director James B. Comey, as falsely portrayed as “a dirty police.”

Russian operators often spread joke to undermine the investigations in their information campaign, researchers found. One showed Democrats Hillary Clinton who says: “Everyone I do not like is a Russian hacker.” Another showed a woman in a car talking to a police headed “IT IS NOT MY FAULT OFFICER, THE RUSSIAN HACKED MY SPEEDOMETER.”

On one occasion, immediately after the 2016 election, the Russian operators also began to enjoy Facebook: CEO of Mark Zuckerberg, saying that social media had no impact on Trump’s victory – a statement that he later apologized.

On Capitol Hill, the top democrats said Monday that the revelations in late Senate reports underscore the need to study social media and consider new regulation to stop Russia and other foreign actors from manipulating American democracy in future elections. 19659027] “I think all platforms are still very vulnerable and I do not have confidence but companies have invested resources and people needed to handle the problem’s scope,” said rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

In particular, Schiff described the Instagram revelations as “surprising”, contradictory data and testimony Facebook, previously submitted to the committee. “If Facebook did not know it’s a problem,” he said. “If they were aware of it and did not share that information, it’s a completely different problem.”

Then. Richard Burr (RN.C.), the chairman of the committee asking researchers to analyze the data of the technical companies, said the results show “how aggressively Russia tried to share Americans through race, religion and ideology.”

Any other GOP legislature in the Senate Information Committee refused to comment or not respond.

Facebook executives hardly discussed Instagram’s role when they testified before the Congress last year about Russian mediation. At that time, the company said that the Russian campaign reached 126 million people on Facebook and 20 million at Instagram.

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