Russian cyber meddling actively distorted and distracted attention away from scandalous news about Donald Trump in the run-up to last year’s US election, an Associated Press investigation has found. It says criticcism was refocussed on the mainstream media, or Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Analysis of over 36,000 tweets from Russian-backed accounts found that a “foreign actor” tried to manipulate the news consumption of average Americans as they were deciding who to vote for.
“It shows that a foreign government or a foreign actor was trying to kind of manipulate the minds in – you know – the news consumption of average Americans whenever they were trying to make a very consequential choice, which is probably the most important choice that they make at the voter box, which is who is the president of the United States,” said AP’s Chad Day.
Once the accounts were discovered and connected to a troll farm, they were deleted, AP says.
“This bolsters the account, or the conclusion of the NSA, the CIA and the FBI last January when they said that Russia had tried to launch a wide-scale cyber campaign to undermine Clinton’s candidacy and help Donald Trump. […] And so, for example, one of the main things that we’ve found was, on October 7 whenever a video came out of Donald Trump – you know – boasting about groping women without their permission – this was kind of a key moment in the campaign – these accounts kind of activated and then started trying to deflect attention from that, try to undermine that video and the posting of it and then deflect that negative attention towards Hillary Clinton,” Day added.
The agency says the archive of posts it obtained is “the most comprehensive picture so far of Russian activity on Twitter in the crucial run-up to the Nov. 8, 2016, vote.”
The findings come amid congressional and criminal investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.