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Why 2018 could be seen as a canary in the coal mine for Facebook.
Russia is the impact of the campaign during the 2016 presidential elections was a sophisticated and multi-faceted effort to focus on the African-American community and political discord to sow among the public on the different social media platforms, according to new reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee.
A report that is 100 pages long, provides a new context and details with respect to the large scope of the multi-year-old Russian operation and the nefarious tactics to exploit divisions along racial and political ideology in the U.S. on a range of social media platforms, including Google-owned YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Facebook-owned Instagram. The shadow of the efforts that are focused on support of the Trump campaign, disparagement of Hillary Clinton, suppress the vote, sow discord and attack various public figures.
According to the report, released on Monday, the huge operation reach 126 million people on Facebook, posted 10.4 million tweets on Twitter, and uploaded more than 1,000 videos to YouTube, and achieved more than 20 million users on Instagram. The report states that about 6 percent of the tweets, 18 percent of Instagram posts and 7 percent of the Facebook posts stated Trump, or Clinton with the name. However, Trump was mentioned about twice as often as Clinton on most platforms. The report, titled “the Tactics and Tropes of the Internet Research Agency,” warns that the manipulation of the AMERICAN political discourse continues in 2018.
The report was commissioned by cybersecurity company of New Knowledge, Canfield Research and Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, it turns out that the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian company that is owned by a businessman, who is reportedly a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, touching on a variety of themes and social issues over and over again across multiple online platforms, including the Islamic culture, black culture, gun rights of LGBT people, patriotism, the Tea y issues, veterans rights, pro-Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein content of the Christian culture and the Southern culture and the American separatist movements.
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However, the report says that the most productive, intense efforts have focused on targeting black Americans and seem to be aimed at the development of the public in that community, and the recruitment of black Americans as “assets”.
“The IRA made a comprehensive cross-platform media mirage, aimed at the Black community, which is shared and cross-promoted authentic Black media is an overwhelming influence of the ecosystem,” the report said. “The IRA abused the trust of their target groups to develop human assets, at least some of them are not aware of the role they played. This tactic was clearly more pronounced on the Black-oriented accounts.”
The report also reveals the shocking extent of the misinformation campaign on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. “Instagram is an important front in the IRA, the influence of the operation, something that Facebook executives seem to have avoided to mention in the Congressional testimony,” it says. “There were 187 million orders on Instagram. Facebook estimated that over 20 million affected users. There were 76.5 million in contracts on Facebook; Facebook is estimated that the Facebook operation reach 126 million people.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin is to chair a meeting to discuss preparation for the occasion of the anniversary of the allied victory in the second world War, in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018.
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The researchers also note that in 2017, if the media covered their Facebook and Twitter activities, IRA shifted much of its activity to Instagram. “Instagram engagement is better than Facebook, which may indicate its strength as a tool in image-centric memetic (meme) warfare. Alternately, it is possible that the IRA ‘ s Instagram engagement was the result of on farms; a few of the provided accounts reference what appears to be a live involvement of the farm.”
Against this background, the study warns that Instagram is probably one of the most important battleground in the future.
The themes selected by the IRA were “deployed to create and reinforce tribalism within each targeted community,” according to the report, which finds that a majority of the functions provided by a given Facebook page strengthens in-group camaraderie. isan content was also presented to audiences in on-brand ways: for example, a meme featured Jesus in a Trump campaign hat on a account targeting Christians.
In addition, the report notes that the IRA co-opted the names of real groups with existing reputation among the targeted communities, including the “United Muslims of America,” “Cop-Block, Black Guns,” and “L” for Life.” Researchers said that this might be an attempt to backstop an identity as a curious individual do a Google Search, or piggyback on an established brand.
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The influence campaign started on certain platforms of a few years ago. The IRA was active on Twitter as of early 2014, prior to their efforts on Facebook and Instagram. However, since the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, only the requested data from January 1, 2015, it is possible that a number of IRA-content that appeared on Facebook or Instagram was just not included in the data. The IRA also produced videos about 17 channels on YouTube beginning in September 2015, with most of the content in connection with police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Meanwhile, a second report prepared for the senate committee also paints a disturbing picture of Russia the influence of the campaign.
The study by the University of Oxford the Mathematical Propaganda Project and analysis of social media specialist Graphika note the size of the social media attack. “Between 2013 and 2018, the IRA’ s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter campaigns reached tens of millions of users in the United States,” it says. “IRA-activities aimed at the U.S. started on Twitter in 2013, but has quickly become a multi-platform strategy where Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, among other platforms.”
Russia’s attempts to sow discord in the society remained long after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to the researchers. “IRA posts on Instagram and Facebook increased significantly after the elections, with Instagram seeing the largest increase in IRA activity.”
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A Facebook spokesperson provided Fox News with the following statement:
“Congress and the intelligence community are best placed to use the information that we and others provide to determine the political motives of actors, such as the Internet Research Agency. We continue to fully cooperate with officials of the investigation of the VOA of the activity on Facebook and Instagram around the 2016 election. We have thousands of ads and pieces of content to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for the review and the sharing of information with the public about what we found. Since then we have made progress in helping to prevent interference on our platforms during the elections, strengthened our policy against voter suppression ahead of 2018 mid-term elections, and funded independent research into the impact of social media on democracy.”
A spokesman of Twitter, gave the following statement to Fox News:
“Our unique focus is on improving the health of the public conversation on our platform, and protecting the integrity of the elections is an important aspect of this mission. We have made significant progress since 2016, against the manipulation of our service, including the release of additional data in October in connection with the above-mentioned activities, to become more independent scientific research and research.”
A Google spokesman declined to comment on the reports, although the company has previously described the prevention of the misuse of the platform as a major concern.
“This newly released data shows how aggressively Russia sought to divide Americans by race, religion and ideology, and how the IRA actively worked to erode the trust in our democratic institutions,” Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, R-NC, said in a statement. “Most troublingly, it appears that these activities have not stopped.”
The commission, vice-chairman, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., released a statement that read in part:
“These attacks against our country were much more comprehensive, calculating and widespread than previously revealed. That is going to be some much-needed and long-awaited when it comes to social media. I hope that these reports will inspire legislative action in the Congress and the brightness of the American public about Russia ‘ s attack on our democracy.”
The report of New Knowledge, Canfield Research and Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, also notes that the efforts of the social media platforms to crack down on bots may not be enough.
“Now that the automation techniques (for example bots) are better controlled, the near future will be a return to the past: we see the increased human exploitation for the tradecraft, and narrative money laundering,” the report states in its conclusion. “We should certainly expect recruitment, manipulation, and the influence attempts directed at the 2020 election, including the non-authentic amplification of otherwise legitimate American stories, as well as a focus on smaller/secondary platforms and peer-to-peer messaging services.”
Russia has repeatedly denied interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.