The size and scope of Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election was far more extensive and thorough than previously understood, according to two newly released reports.
The reports that emerged this week support conclusions by the U.S. intelligence community — and published in an unclassified January 2017 report — that the goal of all of Russia’s meddling in the months leading up to the 2016 elections was to get their preferred candidate elected president of the United States.
"What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party and specifically Donald Trump," according to the report by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and network analysis firm Graphika.
Russia on Tuesday rejected the allegations in the two reports. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the accusations baseless.
The findings, as first reported by The Washington Post, said Russians working for a group called the Internet Research Agency (IRA) began experimenting with social media to influence local elections in 2009 and expanded its operations to U.S. elections in 2013 using Twitter.
It gradually added other popular social media sites to its campaign, including YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, using race and social issues such as gun rights, immigration and police brutality, to sow division and discontent.
"Conservative and right-wing voters were actively encouraged to get behind Trump’s campaign," according to the report by Oxford and Graphika. "Other voters were encouraged to boycott the election, abstain from voting for Clinton, or to spread cynicism about participating in the election in general."
Russia's IRA activity also sought out African-American voters in particular with advertising on Facebook and Instagram and with video content on YouTube.
"Most of the interest-based targeting focused on African-American communities and interests," the second report by the cybersecurity firm New Knowledge showed.
"Messaging to African-Americans sought to divert their political energy away from established political institutions by preying on anger with structural inequalities faced by African-Americans, including police violence, poverty and disproportionate levels of incarceration," the Oxford University-Graphika report added. "These campaigns pushed a message that the best way to advance the cause of the African-American community was to boycott the election and focus on other issues instead."
Source : VOA