New Senate report details extent of Russia's 2016 disinformation campaign

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A new report prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee, the first to study millions of posts from the 2016 presidential campaign provided by Facebook, Twitter, and Google, says that Russians working at the Internet Research Agency posted on every major social media platform photos, videos, and messages to help get President Trump elected, and continued the effort to support him once in office, The Washington Post reports.

The Post obtained a draft of the report, compiled by Oxford University's Computational Propaganda Project. Researchers found that at certain points, like during presidential debates, disinformation campaigns ramped up, with different groups receiving targeted messages: for example, conservatives saw posts about gun rights, while black voters saw false information about how to vote.

"What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump," the report says. "Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged those groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract, and ultimately discourage members from voting."

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The tech companies were all extremely slow to realize what was going on, the report says, even though the Russians slipped up several times, like paying for ads with rubles. Social media, the report states, went from a "natural infrastructure for sharing collective grievances and coordinating civic engagement to being a computational tool for social control, manipulated by canny political consultants and available to politicians in democracies and dictatorships alike." Read more about the report at The Washington Post.

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