Did Russia Interfere?

I’ve been writing this blog about a year and if you’ve been following along you know that I moderate all comments to be certain they are civil in nature. So far I’ve not rejected a single uncivil comment!

In recent months another good reason to moderate the comments has emerged; I get about ten spam comments each day generated by some computer program, and I’m really glad those don’t get posted automatically. Here is what’s interesting: In my unofficial estimate about 30% of these comments from non-subscribers are written in Russian, so somebody (or some bot) in Russia is trying to post comments to my blog.

This made me start paying closer attention to the accusation that Russia manipulated social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election. As with many news stories these days I assumed this one was exaggerated by the media.

I don’t think it was.

Twitter has now admitted that upwards of 50,000 fake accounts were created by Russians to post automated content, and about 3,800 of those accounts were traced back directly to Russian state operatives. Tweets would, for example, attack Hillary Clinton’s performance during the debates. Some of these fake tweets were then re-tweeted by Trump campaign folks such as Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump, Jr. who assumed they were legitimate.

Russians also created fake Facebook accounts that spread political propaganda, and they did so in such a way it appeared the post was being shared by real voters, especially in swing states that would determine the final outcome of the election. This political activity was verified by cybersecurity experts at George Washington University.

Here is one example:

 

Phttps://democrats-intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/6053177352305.pdf

Pretty subtle, huh?

Here is another post that received 13,000 Facebook “likes”:

https://democrats-intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/stop_ai_burqa.pdf

Other fake Facebook posts did not specifically support a candidate but apparently were intended to further divide the American public.

https://democrats-intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/blacktivist_oc_343308009345635.pdf

And yes, a few even attacked Donald Trump, again presumably attempting to divide the country.

https://democrats-intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/6056284937087.pdf

Click here to see a few other examples of fake posts traced to Russia.

In prepared testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last fall Facebook executives said that approximately 126 million American Facebook subscribers viewed Russian-generated content. Elliot Schrage, one of Facebook’s vice presidents, said “Most of the ads appear to focus on divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum, touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights,”

It appears that the Russian accounts were primarily supportive of Donald Trump’s bid for the Whitehouse but were also aimed at ultimately harming America’s already fractured society.

And using social media was not the only strategy employed by the Russians. As far back as October of 2016 the United States Intelligence Community accepted the conclusion that Russian operatives had hacked email accounts and stolen emails, later released by WikiLeaks and others, and that the theft was intended to influence and disrupt the American election. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence concluded that it had “high confidence” that the hacked emails were shared with WikiLeaks and other organizations by Russia and that “Moscow will apply lessons learned from its campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts in the United States and worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes”.

On Monday of this week Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s CIA Director, said he believes Russia will again try to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections.

There is no way to determine whether Russia’s activities actually influenced the outcome of the 2016 election. As I’ve said before both presidential candidates in that election were deeply flawed. But likelihood of success should not matter. What should matter is that another nation is doing everything it can to influence our democratic processes.

Russia is America’s most dangerous enemy and our number one adversary on the world stage. It is possibly the number one threat to our security, so why is this issue seemingly on the back burner? Well, there is another Russian probe under way (I’ll write about it in another post) that has sort of diverted America’s attention, and I can also think of countless other issues that have led us to focus elsewhere. Examples: North Korea, accusations that President Trump paid a porn star to keep quiet about an affair, constant diversionary Tweets by our President, Charlottesville, moving the American embassy in Israel, DACA, the tax overhaul bill, hurricane damage to Puerto Rico, reports of the President’s disparaging comments regarding poor countries, the Paris climate accords, firing James Comey, firing Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Anthony Scaramucci, repealing Obamacare, Roy Moore, stalled infrastructure legislation, our President attacking his own appointees, the wall (not to be confused with Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”), attacks on the free press, the stock market, attacks on football players, controversy over President Trump’s frequent vacations and golf games (at his own resorts), attacks on our own intelligence community, repealing environmental policies, and much more.

It’s just hard to focus on our enemy’s attempt to control elections, but we should.

 

 

3 thoughts on “Did Russia Interfere?

  1. Good blog and a legitimate concern. Far too many people do not critically parse the information and opinions that flood the media. One thing I miss about teaching is the opportunity to encourage rational examination of things that are presented as fact.

  2. The evidence I’ve seen supports the conclusion I drew shortly after the election: the Kremlin tried desperately to tip the election in favor of Trump but it didn’t seem to move the needle. Clinton lost because she was unpopular, untrusted and the electorate didn’t like that she broke the rules with her email server. The content of her emails didn’t seem to matter. Trump was a reality star and the opposite of politically correct, a trend that had developed into a near constant irritant for most Americans.

    Regardless, I think it is a legitimate concern that Donald Trump is, and always has been, an appealing blackmail candidate by the Russians. I know it sounds like a zany conspiracy theory, but it’s not. I had rejected it outright for a long time before acknowledging how much evidence actually supports it. If you look at how many pieces of the “Trump Dossier” have been corroborated and how much Trump has inadvertently confirmed on Howard Stern or in his own books, the theory sadly moves firmly into the realm of possibility. The investigation into Russian interference in our election germinated from the simple observation that Trump bent over backward so he wouldn’t offend Putin. It contrasted starkly with his pugnacious attitude toward virtually everything else. Now, his acquiescence/subservience/deference to Putin is affecting White House policy and he’s even defying votes by Congress concerning Russia. It’s scary.

  3. It is truly disturbing that these types of posts become mainstream – regardless of source – all the while Russia is playing us like puppets. And we’re falling for it with every like, share and comment. Not just everyday Americans, but the leaders are falling for it! That’s the scariest part! Thank you for another good post.

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