Social media was a source of dissemination of news and a resource of propaganda. As reported by NBC News,Twitter deleted 200,000 Russian troll tweets that were tied to malicious activity from Russian-liked accounts during the highly contested 2016 U.S presidential election.
NBC News proceeded to publish its own database that contains all of these hundreds of thousands of tweets. Not only did were these accounts identified, but they were found to have had a clear role in disrupting a pivotal election.
“These accounts, working in concert as part of large networks, pushed hundreds of thousands of inflammatory tweets, from fictitious tales of Democrats practicing witchcraft to hardline posts from users masquerading as Black Lives Matter activists. Investigators have traced the accounts to a Kremlin-linked propaganda outfit founded in 2013 known as the Internet Research Association (IRA).”
The midterm elections are later in 2018 and are a cause for concern. Specifically, the Director of National Intelligence alluded to Russia getting involved in the electoral process once again.
“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday.”
Director Coats went on to add that Russia will be readying its efforts in multiple ways. For starters, it is a cheap avenue to deploy and is low risk. Within the report, it emphasizes that they will use propaganda, social media, false flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen, and other means to influence the elections.
In January of 2018, Twitter emailed 700,000 users and informed them that they may have engaged with Russian accounts. Close to two weeks later, that number of Twitter users notified had more than doubled.
The microblogging social network handed over to Congress a list of 3,814 accounts names affiliated with the IRA. In addition, those accounts have been suspended as a result.
The data compiled by NBC News has been contextualized and has eye-opening findings. Apparently, Russian accounts acted as ordinary Americans, which drew millions of followers. They also capitalized on events like terrorist attacks, debates and other news-breaking happenings to manipulate the narrative, and misinform.
The Next Web added an analysis around this published report. There is a sample database available here as Google spreadsheet. It shows more than 11,000 tweets from just 10 of the troll accounts. In another example, an account known as @Ten_GOP had more than 100k in followers. Their tweets were retweeted by Republicans like President Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ann Coulter.