WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia’s sweeping political disinformation campaign on U.S. social media was more far-reaching than originally thought, with troll farms working to discourage black voters and “blur the lines between reality and fiction” to help elect Donald Trump in 2016, according to reports released Monday by the Senate intelligence committee.
And the campaign didn’t end with Trump’s ascent to the White House. Troll farms are still working to stoke racial and political passions in America at a time of high political discord.
The two studies are the most comprehensive picture yet of the Russian interference campaigns on American social media. They add to the portrait investigators have been building since 2017 on Russia’s influence — though Trump has equivocated on whether the interference actually happened.
Facebook, Google and Twitter declined to comment on the specifics of the reports.
The reports were compiled by the cybersecurity firm New Knowledge and by the Computational Propaganda Research Project, a study by researchers at the University of Oxford and Graphika, a social media analysis firm.
The Oxford report details how Russians broke down their messages to different groups, including discouraging black voters from going to the polls and stoking anger on the right.
“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,” the researchers wrote.
At the same time, “Messaging to conservative and right-wing voters sought to do three things: repeat patriotic and anti-immigrant slogans; elicit outrage with posts about liberal appeasement of ‘others’ at the expense of US citizens, and encourage them to vote for Trump.”
The report from New Knowledge says there are still some live accounts tied to the original Internet Research Agency, which was named in an indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller in February for an expansive social media campaign intended to influence the 2016 presidential election. Some of the accounts have a presence on smaller platforms as the major companies have tried to clean up after the Russian activity was discovered.
“With at least some of the Russian government’s goals achieved in the face of little diplomatic or other pushback, it appears likely that the United States will continue to face Russian interference for the foreseeable future,” the researchers wrote.
The New Knowledge report says that none of the social media companies turned over complete data sets to Congress and some of them “may have misrepresented or evaded” in testimony about the interference by either intentionally or unintentionally downplaying the scope of the problem.
The Senate panel has been investigating Russian interference on social media and beyond for almost two years. Intelligence committee Chairman Richard Burr said in a statement that the data shows how aggressively Russia tried to divide Americans by race, religion and ideology and erode trust in institutions.
“Most troublingly, it shows that these activities have not stopped,” said Burr, a North Carolina Republican.
One major takeaway from both studies is the breadth of Russian interference that appeared on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook and was not frequently mentioned when its parent company testified on Capitol Hill. The study says that as attention was focused on Facebook and Twitter in 2017, the Russians shifted much of their activity to Instagram.
The New Knowledge study says that there were 187 million engagements with users on Instagram, while there were 77 million on Facebook.
“Instagram was a significant front in the IRA’s influence operation, something that Facebook executives appear to have avoided mentioning in congressional testimony,” the researchers wrote. They added that “our assessment is that Instagram is likely to be a key battleground on an ongoing basis.”
The Russian activity went far beyond the three tech companies that provided information, reaching many smaller sites as well. The New Knowledge report details sophisticated attempts to infiltrate internet games, browser extensions and music apps. The Russians even used social media to encourage users of the game Pokemon Go — which was at peak popularity in the months before the 2016 presidential election — to use politically divisive usernames, for example.
The report discusses even more unconventional ways that the Russian accounts attempted to connect with Americans and recruit assets, such as merchandise with certain messages, specific follower requests, job offers and even help lines that could encourage people to unknowingly disclose sensitive information to Russia that could later be used against them.
The Russians’ attempts to influence Americans on social media first became widely public in the fall of 2017. Several months later, Mueller’s indictment laid out a vast, organized Russian effort to sway political opinion. While the social media companies had already detailed some of the efforts, the indictment tied actual people to the operation and named 13 Russians responsible.
Also notable is the study’s finding that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was favorably treated in posts aimed at both left-leaning and right-leaning users. The New Knowledge report says there were a number of posts expressing support for Assange and Wikileaks, including several in October 2016 just before WikiLeaks released hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The Oxford study notes that peaks in Internet Research Agency advertising and organic activity — or posts, shares and comments by users — often corresponded with important dates on the U.S. calendar, crises and international events.
The researchers from Oxford said that organic postings were much more far reaching than advertisements, despite Facebook’s sole focus on ads when the company first announced it had been compromised in 2017.
Other findings in the studies:
— During the week of the presidential election, posts directed to right-leaning users aimed to generate anger and suspicion and hinted at voter fraud, while posts targeted to African-Americans largely ignored mentions of the election until the last minute.
— Establishment figures of both parties, especially Clinton, were universally panned. Even a tag targeted to feminists criticized Clinton and promoted her primary opponent, independent Bernie Sanders;
— Several posts promoted the Russian agenda in Syria and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
— IRA’s posts focused on the United States started on Twitter as far back as 2013, and eventually evolved into the multi-platform strategy.
— Russian activity on Twitter was less organized around themes like race or partisanship but more driven by local and current events and made use of occasional pop culture references.
— Facebook posts linked to the IRA “reveal a nuanced and deep knowledge of American culture, media, and influencers in each community the IRA targeted.” Certain memes appeared on pages targeted to younger people but not older people. “The IRA was fluent in American trolling culture,” the researchers say.
Associated Press writer Matt O’Brien contributed to this report from Providence, Rhode Island.
Bilderberg 2019 location remains secret less than a month out
Any time an article invokes “Bilderberg” in the title of the article, many assume it’s going to be a conspiracy theory involving the Illuminati and a push for population control. But what gets missed because of all the strange reporting around the annual meeting of the world’s elites is that there really are crazy things afoot in these meetings that have been reported on properly for years.
There are conspiracy theories, but there are also actual conspiracies. That’s essentially what he meeting is held for in the first place – so the elites can conspire. I’m not saying their conspiring is always a bad thing, but those of us who have been following the meeting for years (decades, in my case) are aware that some very controversial discussions are held that we know of and almost certainly that we don’t know of as well.
Last year, the meeting location was announced in January, giving ample time for all attendees and press to attend. But unlike past meetings, attendance of the press was limited. Have journalists and alternative news outlets lost their appetite for the event? Is it “old news” on the conspiracy theory front? If that were the case last year, this year is shaping up to be a reversal. That’s why it’s conspicuous that the meeting details still haven’t been announced and likely won’t be announced until days before.
I’m one of the carryovers from when The New Americana shifted content and stories to focus on NOQ Report. It was the right move and has been paying off. But one thing that’s been lost is any attention to conspiracies. Yes, most of them are false, but not all. If we’re being honest, I’d say most Americans believe in some conspiracy theories but the term itself has been so stigmatized and the art of investigative journalism has been so tainted that few are willing to admit it. Hopefully, I’ll be posting more on strange subjects in the future.
The folks over at Truthstream Media broke down last year’s and this year’s event as best they could with the limited information available. Bilderberg 2019 is going to happen, but nobody knows where or when.
What does San Francisco Mayor London Breed have to hide about Jeff Adachi’s death?
San Francisco politicians would be in an absolute uproar if the Trump administration ordered the suspension of an unambiguous liberty for the sake of expediency. They would declare a Constitutional crisis was underway and would demand the rights of their citizens be upheld while those who violated them should be held accountable. But when the rights of a citizen are trampled on to benefit their corrupt politicians, they stand by the trampling and pretend like nothing foul is afoot.
Such is the story of journalist Bryan Carmody. His 1st Amendment rights were disregarded so blatantly and so frivolously that it’s obvious there’s a major cover up underway that is protecting very powerful people in the progressive mecca of San Francisco. Following Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s death, a leaked police report was released by Carmody, prompting the San Francisco Police to illegally attempt to force him to reveal his source. He is protected by the Freedom of the Press from divulging his source, but strong-arm techniques reminiscent of the actions of third-world dictators doesn’t seem to be making a dent in the official stories from San Francisco politicians, most notably Mayor London Breed.
Carmody claims he was restrained in handcuffs for nearly six hours as the authorities ransacked his home, seizing “laptops, phones and hard drives — including all the images and documents he had archived from his 29-year career as a reporter and cameraman,” the report adds.
Law enforcement officials have neither denied nor contradicted the freelancer’s version of events. The San Francisco Police Department has not yet returned Carmody’s equipment. The raid, which was approved by two trial court judges, also included agents from the FBI.
And all because Carmody refused to give up a confidential source, as is his right. The mayor sees it differently, though, and she is digging in.
The Mayor took the unconstitutional route from the start and hasn’t looked back.
“San Francisco Police Department is in the process of conducting an investigation into how confidential information was released within the Department. As part of this investigation, the Department went through the appropriate legal process to request a search warrant, which was approved by two judges,” her office said in a statement last week.
Mayor Breed releases statement on the police raid of a journalist's home that appears to have been parsed with Valyrian steel pic.twitter.com/ZaAxNCbGoO
— Demian Bulwa (@demianbulwa) May 14, 2019
Even now, as the pressure mounts from news outlets across the country for the far-left political machine of San Francisco to denounce the attack on the press, one that is so much more direct and heinous than anything President Trump has done, they continue to focus on the legality of the search warrants (even though they clearly were not legal by any stretch of the imagination) and the imperative of finding out who leaked the memos, something that no average San Francisco resident could ever actually care about if they’re being honest.
Instead of defending the Constitution and the rights of their citizens, they’re redirecting.
As much as anyone, I want a thorough investigation into how the police report related to Jeff Adachi’s death was leaked. I made it clear to the Police Department that responsible parties within the department needed to be held accountable…https://t.co/5PtYuX4U8l
— London Breed (@LondonBreed) May 19, 2019
Their unabashed willingness to continue forward despite all the bad press they’re getting can easily lead someone to one conclusion: There’s something really bad surrounding Adechi’s death that has San Francisco Democrats terrified. There’s a cover up happening right before our eyes, one that has politicians, police, and judges involved and unwavering in their willingness to discard the 1st Amendment altogether.
Whatever has London Breed and her cronies spooked about Adechi’s death, it has to be huge. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be pressing so adamantly against the Constitution of the United States in the broad daylight of public condemnation.
Why we aren’t ‘preppers’ who store food, gold, guns, or ammunition
It is very compelling for many people, particularly in America, to see the collapsing freedoms and growing persecutions across the world and want to do something to protect ourselves. This makes many choose to store certain items for times that are coming (or potentially upon us already) when chaos rules. My family disagrees with this viewpoint.
Before the attacks start coming in, there are two important things to consider. First, we have a good amount of food and survival gear as well as plenty of protection within our house. It’s not a coincidence that my children’s favorite pastime is weekends at the shooting range. Second, we have nothing against those who choose to live the “prepper” lifestyle. It’s a natural reaction from certain points of view.
There was a time not too long ago when we were what some would call “amateur preppers”. We bought long-term food stores. We maintained an independent water supply. We have family members who have enough guns and ammunition to hole up in solitude indefinitely without fear.
The reason we shifted our views away from deep preparations can be broken down into three categories.
1. Tribulation is an opportunity
This isn’t a call for people to go looking for trouble. We aren’t suggesting that everyone needs to go give away Bibles in China or preach the Word in Iran in hopes of getting arrested and persecuted. Some are clearly called to do such things, not for the sake of the persecution they’ll receive but to make disciples of the nations. Bold actions like these aren’t for everyone.
What we are saying is that the Bible makes it very clear that those who overcome their fears and face the tribulations, trials, and persecutions that are becoming increasingly robust around the world are blessed for their diligence and faith.
Matthew 5:10 (KJV)
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Romans 5:3-5 (KJV)
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
James 1:2-3 (KJV)
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
Our first goal is to accept the gift of salvation. Our second goal is to spread the Gospel to those we can touch. Once those two things are ongoing, we should continue to keep our security and health, but not at the detriment of either of the first two goals. In fact, Yeshua spoke of the importance of keeping the faith now for the grace to come instead of trying to focus on saving our bodies in this life.
Luke 9:23-25 (KJV)
23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
25 For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
Total faith means knowing that whatever God has in store for you, whether it’s what we consider to be positive or negative, we must see beyond the effects on this life and believe that how we handle everything can be a merit at the time of judgment.
2. The Principalities and Powers are watching
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
A look at the news on any given day will reveal two disturbing trends: the various governments and other entities of the world are tightening around us while the people are becoming more confused and looking towards sinful solutions.
The concept of having guns pried from our cold, dead hands is seeming to be more and more likely of a scenario.
Between technological advancements, emboldened governments, and desperate leads in and out of governments, it’s very unlikely that anyone can be truly safe. The only choices may end up being to die defending the farm or to face persecution. It’s definitely possible to do both, to be a prepper while still maintaining the right connection to faith, but it’s part of human nature to rely on our own works when we focus on solutions like those.
As I’ve discussed before, Christians shouldn’t prepare at an extreme level for an economic collapse. Again, we’re not suggesting that people should abandon their gold or silver. It simply can’t be a priority as it takes away from the proper focus of this life – unending love and faith in Yeshua as our Lord and Savior.
At no point would we ever recommend sitting back and watching our liberties fade into history. There are times to fight. There are times to hide. There are times to adjust. Of course, the one universal is that there is time for prayer, repentance, and service to our Lord.
3. Faith through the Armor of God is sufficient
As I’ve made abundantly clear on my other site, I do not believe in the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture. Those who are alive when the end times come will face tribulation whether they have guns or not.
There is a false security that is created when the works of our hands are used to solve problems as big as the tribulation from the Bible. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t act, but the real action comes from preparing our souls and putting on the whole Armor of God.
Those who prepare for catastrophe are distracted. We all are to some degree with everything that is in front of us in this world. One of our goals should be to remove or properly handle these distractions.
Being a prepper doesn’t make anyone any less of a Christian. It just makes being a good Christian harder. Of course, that could be said about pretty much everything in this world that’s not centered squarely on the Bible’s teachings.
Why Game of Thrones felt rushed
Graham Ledger: Democrats, mainstream media panicking over William Barr’s upcoming investigations
Carlson vs. Shapiro: A way forward
Sanctuary policies fail 14-year-old Ariana Funes-Diaz again as her suspected MS-13 murderers released a second time
Love is often a one-way street between Evangelical Christians and Jews (and that’s okay)
The rise of citizen journalists
Strait is the gate and narrow is the way: Churches, stop pushing a ‘wide gate’ doctrine
Did Jesus die exactly 1000 years after King David died?
The sons of God in Genesis 6 were not the sons of Seth (and Nephilim were really giants)
True inclusion is narrow and pure as Matthew 7 teaches
Jeremiah 23:5 – ‘a King shall reign and prosper’
Jude 1:21 – ‘in the love of God’
Proverbs 4:18 – ‘path of the just’
Exodus 20:8 – ‘the sabbath day’
Luke 5:31-32 – ‘sinners to repentance’
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