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Twitter Releases Tweets Showing Attempts Of Influence On U.S. Politics From Foreign Countries

All of the accounts linked to the massive trove of tweets released by Twitter have been suspended or deleted.

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Twitter, tweets
The Twitter logo is shown at its corporate headquarters in San Francisco, California. VOA

On Wednesday, Twitter released a collection of more than 10 million tweets related to thousands of accounts affiliated with Russia’s Internet Research Agency propaganda organization, as well as hundreds more troll accounts, including many based in Iran.

The data, analyzed and released in a report by The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, are made up of 3,841 accounts affiliated with the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, 770 other accounts potentially based in Iran as well as 10 million tweets and more than 2 million images, videos and other media.

Russian trolls targeting U.S. politics took on personas from both the left and the right. Their primary goal appears to have been to sow discord, rather than promote any particular side, presumably with a goal of weakening the United States, the report said.

DFRlab says the Russian trolls were often effective, drawing tens of thousands of retweets on certain posts including from celebrity commentators like conservative Ann Coulter.

Russia, Twitter
The Internet Research Agency building, dubbed the Russian troll factory, is seen at Savushkina Street in St. Petersburg, Russia. VOA

Some of the tweets posted:

“Judgement Day is here. Please vote #TrumpPence16 to save our great nation from destruction! #draintheswamp #TrumpForPresident,” said a fake Election Day tweet in 2016.

“Daily reminder: Trump still hasn’t imposed sanctions on Russia that were passed 4,193 in the House and 982 in the Senate. Shouldn’t that be grounds for impeachment?” said another tweet in March of this year.

Multiple goals

The Russian operation had multiple goals, including interfering in the U.S. presidential election, polarizing online communities, and weakening trust in American institutions, according to the DFRLab.

“The thing to understand is that the Russians were equal opportunity partisans,” Graham Brookie, one of the researchers behind the analysis, told VOA News. “There was a very specific focus on specific ideological communities and specific demographics.”

Twitter
The 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, speaks at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington. VOA

Following an initial push to prevent Hillary Clinton from being elected in 2016, the analysis identified a “second wave” of fake accounts, many of which were focused on infiltrating anti-Trump groups, especially those identified with the “Resistance” movement, exploiting sensitive issues such as race relations and gun violence. These often achieved greater impact than their conservative counterparts.

“Don’t ever tell me kneeling for the flag is disrespectful to our troops when Trump calls a sitting Senator “Pocahontas” in front of Native American war heroes,” tweeted an account posing as an African-American woman named “Luisa Haynes” under the handle @wokeluisa in November 2017. The tweet garnered more than 32,000 retweets and over 89,000 likes.

“They tried to inflame everybody, regardless of race, creed, politics or sexual orientation,” the Lab noted in its analysis. “On many occasions, they pushed both sides of divisive issues.”

Iran trolling

Iran’s trolling was primarily focused on promoting its own interests, including attacking regional rivals like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

However, Iran’s trolling was less effective than the Russian posts, with most tweets getting limited responses.

Twitter
Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on foreign influence operations and their use of social media on Capitol Hill. VOA

This was partially because of posting styles that were less inflammatory, according to the report.

“Few of the accounts showed distinctive personalities: They largely shared online articles,” according to the report. “As such, they were a poor fit for Twitter, where personal comment tends to resonate more strongly than website shares.” Generally, many troll posts were ineffective, and “their operations were washed away in the firehose of Twitter.”

All of the accounts linked to the massive trove of tweets released by Twitter have been suspended or deleted, and the analysis notes that overall activity from suspected Russian trolls fell this year after Twitter clampdowns in September and June 2017.

Also Read: Facebook Better Prepared To Defend Itself Against External Manipulation For The Elections

But, that does not mean political trolls do not still pose a threat.

“Identifying future foreign influence operations, and reducing their impact, will demand awareness and resilience from the activist communities targeted, not just the platforms and the open source community,” according to the report. (VOA)

Next Story

U.S. and Russia To Come Up With An Agreement On How To Resolve Venezuela Crisis

Moscow strongly warned the United States “against any temptation to resort to military power” in Venezuela. Russian state news agency TASS quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying. “We assume that Washington treats our priorities seriously, our approach and warnings.”

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U.S.
Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams speaks at the State Department in Washington, March 15, 2019. VOA

U.S. Special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams says Russia and the United States have failed to come to an agreement on how to resolve the crisis in Venezuela following talks in Rome. He did not rule out a future meeting between both sides and said the talks helped both sides gain a better understanding of each other’s views.

The United States Special envoy for Venezuela, Elliot Abrams, described the Rome talks with Russian officials on the crisis in Venezuela as “useful, substantial and serious.” He said the conversations allowed the United States to understand that “Russia sees the crisis in Venezuela as very serious, unlike President Maduro,” mainly, Abrams said, in regard to the economic and humanitarian aspects.

Following a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, Abrams said, “We did not come to a meeting of the minds, but the talks were positive in the sense that I think both sides emerged with a better understanding of the other’s views.” The two sides remain at odds over the legitimacy of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The United States has recognized self-declared President Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, while Russia continues to recognize Mr. Maduro. Italy also has not given Mr. Guaido recognition.

FILE - Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognized as the country's rightful interim ruler, takes part in a rally against President Nicolas Maduro's government in Valencia, Venezuela, March 16, 2019.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognized as the country’s rightful interim ruler, takes part in a rally against President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Valencia, Venezuela, March 16, 2019. VOA

Abrams met with the Pietro Benassi, the diplomatic adviser of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Abrams said the United States is not applying pressure on the Italian government to recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president.

The meetings in the Italian capital took place as the United States imposed fresh sanctions on Venezuela, this time targeting the state-run gold mining company Minerven and its president.

President Donald Trump and visiting Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speak during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 19, 2019.

But at the White House, President Donald Trump on Tuesday reiterated that “all options are open” on the future of Venezuela.

“We are not looking for anything other than taking care of a lot of people that are starving and dying in the streets. What’s happening there is a disgrace,” he said.

Abrams stressed that negotiations are not underway because “We do not negotiate the future of Venezuela with Russia or others because the future of Venezuela will be chosen by the Venezuelans.”

Also Read: Know The Venezuelans Ways to Cope with Inflation and Hunger

Moscow strongly warned the United States “against any temptation to resort to military power” in Venezuela. Russian state news agency TASS quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying. “We assume that Washington treats our priorities seriously, our approach and warnings.”

Abrams did not exclude a future meeting with Russia on the Venezuela crisis but said no date had been set. The White House said President Trump will also discuss the Venezuela crisis with Caribbean leaders on Friday. (VOA)