“Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order,” reads a newly declassified intelligence report.
As part of fresh information released Friday, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Security Agency (NSA), has laid out its evidence of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
But were the Russians really influencing the public’s opinion, leading to an unexpected Trump victory?
The History of Russia’s Operations
Since the 1970s, Russia, formerly known as the Soviet Union, has engaged in covert operations in an attempt to overthrow US presidential candidates deemed as a threat.
According to the newly-released report, the KGB (Russia’s old security agency) recruited a Democratic Party activist to report on information regarding Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign and foreign policy plans.
And again in 2010, Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Directorate S (Illegals) officers were arrested in the US for engaging in suspicious covert operations.
The officers were linked to the Russian government, reporting information to Moscow about the 2008 presidential election.
Since then, the Russian government has been linked to several attacks against US presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton, the report reads.
However, the most damaging are said to have taken place in cyberspace.
Guccifer 2.0, the alleged Clinton email hacker, thought to be Romanian, is reportedly associated with the Russian government, as more than one person contacted journalists representing the hacker.
While multiple people contacting journalists as Guccifer could be explained away as the work of copycats, there is still more evidence pointing to the Russian government.
Did Social Media Influence The Election?
As President-elect Donald Trump continues to dominate Twitter, few argue whether his social media following is real.
According to the intelligence report, aside from the DNC leaks, “bots” helped Trump’s campaign and attacked Clinton’s chances.
In August 2016, Nick Bilton, writing for Vanity Fair, reported on Trump’s biggest deception: his Twitter numbers.
Out of his nearly 19 million followers, a chunk of them are generated by bots, or in other words, fake.
Using TwitterAudit, you can see that over 2 million followers are fake. However, don’t be fooled because the real number may be larger.
Here’s why: TwitterAudit, along with other follower measuring tools, don’t take into consideration all of the inactive followers, as stated on the site.
As a result, the real number of fake followers can be as large as 8 million, after looking at the ‘retweet and like to followers ratio.’
And speaking of retweets and likes, one could easily distinguish hundreds to thousands of fake shares in Trump’s Twitter account by the eggs, as the media has also revealed.
The power of these fake followers is fully understood by top social media directors, including Todd Hauptman, who previously served as social media director for two members of Canada’s parliament.
“According to Hauptman, when politicians purchase likes on Facebook, it comes from a general ignorance and lack of understanding of social media,” Salon wrote.
The story of fake Twitter accounts reportedly from Russia failed to make headline news around the world, but the evidence still exists.
Doing a basic Google search, one can easily find where bot accounts are apparently created and then sold, at sites such as Blackhatworld (BHW).
Given the notion that a ton of social media bot tools originate from BHW, this could be perhaps the main space where Russian bot netters operate.
Vlad Shevtsov, a Russian computer scientist, became obsessed with finding out the truth in regards to Trump’s peculiar activity on Twitter.
What did he find?
(Note: The top image is a real account, while the one below is a fake.)
And, here’s some more.
Based on Shevtsov’s findings, a possible Russian botnet was scraping profile pictures and stamping them on Twitter accounts with pro-Trump rhetoric during the election season.
The same results were also allegedly seen when viewing Hillary Clinton’s activity, however, given the new intelligence report, that notion may be false.
With the Trump-Russia theory out of the way, another question lingers: Did Russia interfere with other presidential candidates?
With another simple Google search, one can also find a piece published by the Daily Caller. Twitter users with zero followers were found to have filed complaints against Ted Cruz, back when the Republican primaries was really a two-man race.
Bottom line: There is no doubt the Russians influenced the election in some way or form, despite the Russian government denying any involvement.
The battle against the DNC leaks continues.