Source: The Atlantic

Russian Troll Operation: A Propaganda that Helped Trump in 2016 Elections

in Opinions

The impact of fake news on 2016 presidential elections in the United States has remained obscure. The confusion existed regarding two issues— misinformation about Hillary Clinton and the Russian troll operation.

Researchers at Ohio State University made an attempt to discover the facts behind this enigma, this year.They conducted a post-election survey, where the voters were asked 281 questions, amongst which three were planned to ascertain their exposure to online misinformation.

The applicants were asked to rate the accuracy of the statements which were made back then, including that Hillary Clinton was suffering from a serious illness, that as secretary of state she’d approved weapons sales to the Islamic State, and that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump.

Researchers Paul A Beck, Erik C Nisbet and Richard Gunther wrote, “Belief in these fake news stories is very strongly linked to defection from the Democratic ticket by 2012 Obama voters.”

The research found that believing a fake news story made people significantly less likely to vote for Clinton in 2016, particularly those who voted for former President Barack Obama in 2012. However, no clear connection was claimed between the agenda and voting by the authors of the research, which said that there is a possibility that people opposing Clinton were more open to misinformation about her.

Besides, another such impact of misinformation that remains behind the curtains is about the Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections. Both, left and right wing have remained cynical about the idea that the industrial-scale Russian troll campaign made a significant impact in Trump’s elections.

The special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting investigations into Russia’s role in the 2016 elections, accused 13 Russians linked to the Internet Research Agency — a Russian troll operation based in St. Petersburg — in February.

Shortly afterwards, Rich Lowry from National Review ridiculed that the “Russian contribution on social media was piddling and often laughable.”

Adrian Chen, who reported on the Internet Research Agency for The New York Times Magazine, appeared that month to reduce its political impact. He called it “a social media marketing campaign with 90 people, a few million dollars behind it, run by people who have a bare grasp of the English language and not a full understanding of who they’re targeting.”

A Russian journalist, Denis Korotkov expressed skepticism about the notion that the misinformation being spread from St. Petersburg could possibly have changed the direction of American history, which increasingly seemed to be true.

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday released two reports conducted about the nature and scale of the Russian social media disinformation campaign, which were based on (incomplete) data contemplated to Congress by several major social media platforms.  The reports suggested that the campaign was more sophisticated and extensive than it has been understood previously.

One of the two reports found that Russian propaganda had about 187 million engagements on Instagram with a reach of at least 20 million users, whereas it had 76.5 million engagements on Facebook reaching 126 million people. The report also asserted that approximately 1.4 million people engaged with tweets associated with the Internet Research Agency.

“The organic Facebook posts reveal a nuanced and deep knowledge of American culture, media and influencers in each community the I.R.A. targeted,” it said.

The influence that social media has on the perceptions and behavior of people in the offline world has not been uncertain. History is an evidence to the terrible acts of violence prompted by Facebook propaganda. Besides, Islamic State has also used Twitter to employee isolated Westerners.

Likewise, there is a possibility that the Russian troll operation might easily have influenced the US elections, involving fewer than 80,000 voters, which were decided by a rounding error. Although there is no measure to quantify the precise backlash of disinformation and manipulation over the political history of America, it couldn’t be denied.  It is both absurd and rupturing that fake news has certainly ruined the American history.

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