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Massive scale of Russian election trolling revealed in draft Senate report

Enlarge / A report commissioned by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, based on data provided to the committee by social media platforms, provides a look at just how large and ambitious the Internet Research Agency's campaign to shape the US Presidential election was. (credit: Chesnot/Getty Images ) A report prepared for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) due to be released later this week concludes that the activities of Russia's Internet Research Agency (IRA) leading up to and following the 2016 US presidential election were crafted to specifically help the Republican Party and Donald Trump. The activities encouraged those most likely to support Trump to get out to vote while actively trying to spread confusion and discourage voting among those most likely to oppose him. The report, based on research by Oxford University's Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika Inc. , warns that social media platforms have become a "computational tool for social control, manipulated by canny political consultants, and available to politicians in democracies and dictatorships alike." In an executive summary to the Oxford-Graphika report, the authors—Philip N. Howard, Bharath Ganesh, and Dimitra Liotsiou of the University of Oxford, Graphika CEO John Kelly, and Graphika Research and Analysis Director Camille François—noted that, from 2013 to 2018, "the IRA's Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter campaigns reached tens of millions of users in the United States... Over 30 million users, between 2015 and 2017, shared the IRA's Facebook and Instagram posts with their friends and family, liking, reacting to, and commenting on them along the way." While the IRA's activity focusing on the US  began on Twitter in 2013, as Ars previously reported , the company had used Twitter since 2009 to shape domestic Russian opinion. "Our analysis confirms that the early focus of the IRA's Twitter activity was the Russian public, targeted with messages in Russian from fake Russian users," the report's authors stated. "These misinformation activities began in 2009 and continued until Twitter began closing IRA accounts in 2017." Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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