Speed Reads

always check your sources

Study finds major news organizations used tweets from fake Russians accounts in their news coverage

A study published Friday by Recode and the media-intelligence firm Meltwater found that prominent media outlets like The Washington Post, CBS News, InfoWars, and Vox, unknowingly cited tweets made by Russian Twitter trolls in their news coverage. Earlier this week, Congress released a 65-page PDF file of 2,752 now-deactivated Twitter accounts that belonged to Russia's "Internet Research Agency" troll farm, as part of its investigation of Russian online interference in the 2016 election.

Recode's study shows that Russian Twitter trolls often had their tweets presented as "authentic community voices on an issue." A story by the news service McClatchy on Dec. 1, 2016, about The Daily Show host Trevor Noah's interview with conservative personality Tomi Lahren over Black Lives Matter, included a tweet from the account @BlackToLive, which has since been identified as a Russian twitter troll that posed as an activist. That same account had a tweet featured in a CBS News story this August about former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, whose kneeling protest of racial inequality and police brutality has become a nationwide topic of conversation.

In other instances, media outlets included misleading tweets that contained Russian propaganda. In a story published in The Washington Post on Feb. 11, 2016, the paper embedded a tweet that contained a map of Syria depicting which territory was held by the Islamic State and which by the opposing Syrian government, which is backed by Russia; the account was found to be tied to the Kremlin. Recode identified at least eight instances of The Washington Post using Russia-linked tweets in news coverage.

In response to the study, the Post's executive editor, Marty Baron, told Recode: "Obviously, we regret linking to any Twitter account that we have learned is illegitimate. We'll seek to rectify any stories that contain such links, and now we'll assess our policy regarding the publication of links to Twitter accounts."

Read more about Russian Twitter propaganda in U.S. news stories at Recode.