Has anyone ever been found who was swayed to vote the way they did because of these Russian bots the media makes such a big deal about as if they're somehow worse than brainless celebrities or ideologues telling you "vote X or you're racist/sexist/homophobe/bigot".
Any examples of "I was going to vote Hillary but then saw that picture of her arm wrestling Jesus and changed my mind."?
I think the theory behind such
propaganda public information campaign work is, that the mass of the messages sent makes something stick. Even if only it is just an impression of person X is bad. I doubt many if anyone can point to the exact event that changed their mind.
The Russian operations are not about changing anybody's mind. They are trying to polarize, mobilize both sides, rile them up against each other and against authorities, sowing discord and distrust in the system. People still widely have the idea that all those trolls are posting pro-Trump, anti-Democrat messages. The essential fact to get is that they are working both sides. It doesn't matter if they delegitimize the FBI as part of the "Deep State" or police as racist as long as trust in government institutions is eroded and people go at each others' throats over it. In fact Russian troll accounts have been very active in pushing the "Black Lives Matter" movement. Crossposting and expanding from the Information Warfare thread:
#TrollTracker: Twitter Troll Farm Archives
Part One — Seven key take aways from a comprehensive archive of known Russian and Iranian troll operations
On October 17, Twitter released an archive of over ten million tweets posted by accounts from 2013 through 2018. Of the total, over nine million tweets were attributable to 3,800 accounts affiliated with the Internet Research Agency, also known as Russia’s infamous St. Petersburg troll factory. Over one million tweets were attributable to 770 accounts, originating from Iran.
Each set is included in the same archive; however, because the actors and activity were separate, our analysis was conducted accordingly.
In an effort to promote shared understanding of the vulnerabilities exploited by various types on online influence operations, as well as social media’s role in democracy, @DFRlab had a brief advance opportunity to analyze the nearly complete archive.
These are the seven most important points to know about the Russian and Iranian troll farm operations. Parts two, three, and four of this series take deep dives into each troll farm, their impact, and implications.
1. All Content Points Home
Both troll operations put their governments’ needs first. Russia’s troll operation primarily targeted Russian speakers, while Iran’s focused on pushing regime messaging abroad by promoting aligned websites.
The Russian troll farm posted significantly more in Russian than in English, especially in late 2014 until early 2015, when Russia was fighting an undeclared war in Ukraine and facing anti-corruption demonstrations at home.
The Russian operation’s subsequent use of English-language posting showed how a capability designed for domestic influence could be turned abroad.
2. Multiple Goals
The Russian operation had multiple and evolving goals. One main purpose was to interfere in the U.S. presidential election and prevent Hillary Clinton’s victory, but it was also aimed at dividing polarized online communities in the U.S., unifying support for Russia’s international interests, and breaking down trust in U.S. institutions.
3. Community Targeting
Both operations targeted highly engaged, highly polarized online communities, especially in the United States. The Russian operation attempted to infiltrate and polarize them, while the Iranian operation tried to message them.
Any attempts to increase domestic resilience should prioritize working with such communities.
4. Equal-Opportunity Troll Farms
The Russian trolls were non-partisan: they tried to inflame everybody, regardless of race, creed, politics, or sexual orientation. On many occasions, they pushed both sides of divisive issues.
“Mass shooting occurs even in #GunFreeZones so people is the problem not guns #Prayers4California” ( @micparrish, December 3, 2015)
“mass shooting wont stop until there are #GunFreeZones #Prayers4California” (@LazyKStafford, December 3, 2015)
It is vital to recognize this factor to end the partisan perception that Russian influence operations focused on one side of the political spectrum. Focus shifted over time or at specific moments based target audience.
Part Two — How the Internet Research Agency regenerated on Twitter after its accounts were suspended
The Russian troll operation which was exposed for targeting the United States in the fall of 2017 did not cease operating after its exposure. Instead, it set up a new batch of troll accounts that posed as Americans to post polarizing content from both ends of the political spectrum.
The “Internet Research Agency” (IRA) in St. Petersburg, Russia, ran thousands of fake Twitter accounts and posted some nine million tweets between 2012 and September 2017. Some accounts targeted the 2016 presidential election, while others were aimed at inflaming partisan anger. Twitter suspended those accounts in September 2017, after the operation was exposed by Russian journalists.
After the exposure and mass suspension, the “troll farm” continued to post inflammatory and hyper-partisan content from over 1,000 more recently created accounts. These remained active until mid-June 2018, when they were exposed and taken offline.
The second wave of Russian troll farm accounts was an evolutionary step from the first. They maintained a focus on minority groups and sensitive political issues, in a matter which reached across platforms. They spread some content that was notably anti-Russian, which highlights a key assessment of disinformation. If successful in driving a country further apart rather than closer together internally, that country would be less able to enact anti-Russian policy.
The chief lesson is that the Russian attempt to spread division continued after its initial accounts were suspended. This second wave of troll accounts masqueraded as hyper-partisan activists. By the time it was shut down, it had begun targeting not only the 2018 midterm elections, but the 2020 presidential elections.
Given America’s online polarization, it would be unwise to assume that the takedown of this second front marked the end of the Russian-based information operation against the United States. American online communities remain vulnerable to further foreign influence campaigns, whether from Russia, Iran, or elsewhere.
Still Posting, More Slowly
For the purposes of this article, we will refer to the troll farm campaign that ran from 2014 to October 2017 as the “first wave,” and the campaign from November 1, 2017, onwards as the “second wave.” Some of the accounts active in the second wave were created in early 2017 but continued to post well into 2018.
Some of the accounts which made up the second wave of troll farm accounts masqueraded as hyper-partisan supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump, brandishing his 2016 election motto, “Make America Great Again” or MAGA.
This was in line with the first wave, which used the #MAGA hashtag massively — over 300,000 times in posts and biographies between 2015 and 2017 — according to the Twitter database.
One of the more active second-front MAGA accounts was @JohnCopper16, screen name “Marlboro Man,” which was created on September 4, 2017, and had a modest 4,966 followers by the time it was suspended in June 2018.
While “Marlboro Man” had under 5,000 followers, some were important amplifiers. The tweet shared by @speed32119 was also retweeted by Anne Coulter, a prominent Trump supporter and campaigner, and shared to her Facebook page.
It was not the first time Coulter had been taken in by an account from the troll factory. According to the Huffington Post, she retweeted one of the leading accounts from the first front, @TEN_GOP, at least nine times.
Beyond the amplification by Coulter mentioned above, these accounts do not appear to have had large resonance. Their followings were low, and they only scored handfuls of retweets, unlike first-wave accounts such as @TEN_GOP, which amassed tens of thousands of followers, and could score over 25,000 retweets of a single tweet. They are important for the continued attempt they show to sow division, rather than their impact.
Looking Like Liberals
At least as much of the second wave’s efforts focused on anti-Trump liberal groups, especially the self-styled “Resistance” movement.
These included three accounts that posed as African American women. The best-preserved online was @wokeluisa, screen name “Luisa Haynes,” which was followed by over 50,000 accounts, but was following 57,000, suggesting either bot amplification or follow-back arrangements. This account was created in March 2017.
According to internet archives, it posted a range of pro-liberal, anti-Trump, and anti-administration messaging, and it achieved more impact than the conservative impersonators.
The account attacked libertarian U.S. Senator Rand Paul repeatedly, even though Sen. Paul is a vocal supporter of increased cooperation between the United States and Russia.
In the troll farm’s tradition of focusing on the most divisive issues, the account posted aggressively about the Parkland school shooting and the student activists in favor of gun control, who rose to prominence afterwards.
The second ostensibly African American female account was @KaniJJackson, screen name “Kanisha Jackson.” This account was created on September 5, 2017, just one day after the MAGA accounts. It used three anti-Trump hashtags in its biography: #Impeach45, #Resist and #GunReformNow. It had 27,000 followers, and followed 23,000 accounts, suggesting a follow-back deal.
This account attacked Trump directly.
It also called directly on the #resistance movement, with some degree of impact, judging by the number of likes and retweets.
The third apparently African American account was @LaChristie, screen name “Christie Walker,” self-described as a “Resistance Girl” from Flint, Michigan. This account was created on September 11, 2017, and had over 7,000 followers, but followed over 9,000 other accounts.
It, too, attacked Trump.
Its presentation of American society was as polemic as any far right impersonator.
Anybody interested should really follow the links and read the whole articles with the quoted tweets, which are hard to copy into posts here.