A small cluster of Twitter and other social media accounts have already launched "a wide-ranging disinformation campaign aimed at Democratic 2020 candidates," Politico reports, and there are "signs that foreign state actors are driving at least some of the activity." The main targets of the coordinated social media attacks appear to be Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), and according to some analyses, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
The goal, Politico reports, citing data from social media platforms and interviews with data scientists and digital campaign strategists, appears to be undermining the Democratic frontrunners "through the dissemination of memes, hashtags, misinformation, and distortions of their positions," plus a more general effort to sow discord in the 2020 Democratic field. "It looks like the 2020 presidential primary is going to be the next battleground to divide and confuse Americans," Brett Horvath, a founders of information warfare disruption firm Guardians.ai, tells Politico. "As it relates to information warfare in the 2020 cycle, we're not on the verge of it — we're already in the third inning."
Guardians.ai said it traced the campaign against 2020 Democrats to the same group of about 200 Twitter accounts that waged a wide-scale influence campaign during the 2018 elections, and Horvath says the 2020 assaults are more sophisticated than the 2018 ones and much more evolved than the initial phase in 2016. The core group of accounts, some of them highly sophisticated bots and others unwitting participants who tweet simpatico messages, are then amplified by tens of thousands or other accounts, mimicking organic vitality. In 2018, the accounts focused on conspiracy theories about things like voter fraud and the migrant caravan, and now they are spreading racist memes and misinformation about top Democrats.
Researchers "cannot conclusively point to the actors behind the coordinated activity," Politico notes. "It's unclear if they are rogue hackers, political activists or, as some contend, foreign state actors such as Russia," again. You can read more at Politico.