Tuesday 6 December 2016

Five reasons why Russia may have started ‘fake news’ campaign to help Trump become US president

Experts claim Russian propaganda campaign behind 'fake news'

Published 25/11/2016 | 13:26

Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Photo: AP
Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Photo: AP

The Washington Post has published an article which claims that a Russian propaganda campaign created and spread "fake news" articles in the lead up to the US presidential election.

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Experts say Russia had teams of “human trolls” and thousands of botnets to help damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Some of the tactics allegedly used included releasing a number of hacked emails that embarrassed the Democrat candidate.

Here are five reasons why the independent research teams have come to this conclusion:

1. Vladimir Putin’s past

In 2011, Russian President Vladimir Putin was accused of rigging elections. Putin blamed Barack Obama – and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – for initiating protests about the allegations.

The Russian then spoke about his desire to “break the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on the global information streams”.

A coincidence? Sufian Zhemukhov, a former Russian journalist conducting research at George Washington University, doesn’t seem to think so.

2. Russia’s army of botnets and trolls

According to the research, Russian sites used social media to amplify misleading stories already circulating, resulting in them becoming “trending” topics.

As a result, phony news got an abundance of coverage.

Researchers found that Russian botnets and trolls tweeted sensationalised information after Hillary Clinton fell ill at the 9/11 memorial event in New York.

3. Russia’s far-right views

Content from Russian sites was widely shared on US based websites pushing far-right conservative messages.

The research states that phony stories shared by Russian sites had an audience of 90,000 Facebook accounts and were read more than 8 million times.

One story shared stated that anti-Trump protesters paid thousands of dollars to participate in demonstrations, an allegation which was initially made by a self-described satirist and later repeated publicly by the Trump campaign.

“The way that this propaganda apparatus supported Trump was equivalent to some massive amount of a media buy,” said the executive director of PropOrNot, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.

4. #CrookedHillary

Russian site Sputnik expressed support for Trump throughout the campaign, and even started using the hashtag #CrookedHillary.

5. They’re not new to propaganda campaigns

The Rand report traced the country’s generation of online propaganda work and found that they used the same tactics to shape international views on its military intervention in Syria. Russian propaganda operations also worked to promote the “Brexit” departure of Britain from the European Union.

You can read the full article here.

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