Russian agents ran a sophisticated campaign to bait reporters into covering stories aimed at swinging the 2016 presidential election, The Associated Press reported Friday. The entity Guccifer 2.0, an alias that took credit for hacking Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta as well as the Democratic National Committee, reportedly "airbrushed" a batch of emails released in June 2016 to say they were "CONFIDENTIAL" even though they were not, in order make them more appealing to reporters trawling for a story.
By October 2016, the emails had everyone's attention:
[J]ust as the American electorate was digesting a lewd audio tape of Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women, WikiLeaks began publishing the emails stolen from Podesta.
The publications sparked a media stampede as they were doled out one batch at a time, with many news organizations tasking reporters with scrolling through the thousands of emails being released in tranches. At the AP alone, as many as 30 journalists were assigned, at various times, to go through the material. [The Associated Press]
The AP report is just one of several recent stories about how the media became an unwitting tool for Russian agents. "[N]ew data show that many news publications — from established outfits like the [Washington] Post, the Miami Herald (owned by McClatchy), Buzzfeed, CBS, and even Vox, to controversial alt-right hubs like InfoWars — were duped into citing ... nefarious tweets in their coverage, perhaps unwittingly amplifying the reach of Russian propaganda," Recode reported Friday.
In a separate report, The Daily Beast writes that websites like The New York Times, CNN, and HuffPost were fooled into citing Twitter user @Jenn_Abrams, an alt-right personality that was crafted by a troll farm in Russia. "Abrams' pervasiveness in American news outlets ... illustrates how Russian talking points can seep into American mainstream media without even a single dollar spent on advertising," The Daily Beast writes. Read the full AP story here.