Have you ever argued with a Donald Trump supporter on Facebook or Reddit?
There’s a chance that the person at the other end of the conversation wasn’t really a Trump-supporting patriot, but instead, a troll paid by the Russian government to build up Trump and tear down his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
As the U.S. Senate’s investigation into Russian interference kicks off, the chairs of the committee announced that the Kremlin paid an army of 1,000 people to create fake news stories targeting Hillary Clinton in key swing states, the Independent reported.
The Russian trolls worked out of a single facility in Russia, Sen. Mark Warner said, generating news about Hillary Clinton’s alleged health problems and corruption.
“It’s been reported to me, and we’ve got to find this out, whether they were able to affect specific areas in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, where you would not have been receiving off of whoever your vendor might have been, Trump versus Clinton, during the waning days of the election, but instead, ‘Clinton is sick’, or ‘Clinton is taking money from whoever for some source’… fake news,” Warner said.
“An outside foreign adversary effectively sought to hi-jack the most critical democratic process, the election of a President, and in that process, decided to favor one candidate over another.”
Other analysts said these paid Russian trolls took a more direct role, promoting the stories on social media and even engaging with American users to push the theories of Clinton’s ill health.
“I created this list of Russian trolls when I was researching. And I check on it once in a while, still. And a lot of them have turned into conservative accounts, like fake conservatives. I don’t know what’s going on, but they’re all tweeting about Donald Trump and stuff,” journalist Adam Chen said in a podcast with Longform (via the Independent).
The story of the paid Russian trolls supporting Donald Trump evokes another controversial media arm of Hillary Clinton, the PAC Correct the Record. This group aimed to combat the falsehoods of Hillary Clinton, but critics claimed that they were really employing an army of trolls to promote Clinton online and tear down Trump. Although the group did not claim to interact on a one-to-one level with others, many accused Correct the Record of flooding Reddit and social media sites with fake support for Clinton.
There could be evidence that Donald Trump amplified the Russian trolls. Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, testified before the Senate committee on Thursday that Trump actually read one of the fake news articles at a campaign event and promoted other fake smears emanating from Russia.
Those leading the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference said they believe the paid trolls are not limited to the 2016 presidential election in the United States.
“I think it’s safe by everybody’s judgment that the Russians are actively involved in the French elections,” said Senator Richard Burr (via the Boston Globe).
BBC News – Trump Russia dossier key claim 'verified' https://t.co/eDCL8Dl7Qg
— Resistance????????Angel (@AngelinaSnow007) March 30, 2017
— Raw Story (@RawStory) March 30, 2017
The revelation that an army of Russian trolls was helping spread fake conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton comes as the investigation into Donald Trump’s alleged ties with Russia forges ahead. There are now parallel investigations in the U.S. Senate and House, and last week the FBI confirmed that it is investigating whether Trump or anyone on his team worked with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
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