|Conway re-tweeted Russian Internet troll lies as did Donald, Jr., and numerous right wing "news" sites|
One lesson from the 2016 presidential campaign as more information comes out about the lengths Russia used social messaging via Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to influence voters and throw those open to bigotry, homophobia and, of course white supremacy towards the Trump campaign is how gullible some Americans were and how they actively spread the Russia sourced lies and propaganda. I still suspect that Russia had inside help from as yet unidentified Americans in designing their fake accounts and targeting susceptible demographics. That said, frighteningly, far too many Americans - including right wing "news sites" like Fox News, the Daily Caller and Breitbart not to mention a number of Trump campaign officials - were only happy to believe the lies and further circulate them by re-posting and sharing them. Indeed, I have Facebook "friends" (who I will not name, but hope will recognize themselves and change their behavior) who time and time again forward, re-post and share fake news, at least some of which appears to have been authored by Russian operatives in Moscow or St, Petersburg, Russia. BuzzFeed reports on this disturbing co-opting of Americans to undermine American democracy. Here are story highlights:
A popular, divisive Twitter account, purporting to be the work of Tennessee Republicans but allegedly the creation of Russian trolls to sow division in the US, was repeatedly cited in multiple articles by many prominent US news sites.
The Tennessee Republican Party flagged the account, @TEN_GOP, to Twitter, saying it was a fake, but it wasn't until 11 months after the first notification that the social media company "permanently suspended" the account.
By then, however, the site's inflammatory tweets had reached not only its more than 136,000 followers, but thousands of other people through retweets and references by some of the most prominent sites and personalities on the internet.
The account's purported Russian roots were revealed this week by Russia's RBC news outlet in an investigation that identified @TEN_GOP as one of dozens of accounts created by the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg-based “troll farm” whose work was aimed at sowing division online.
A BuzzFeed News survey of major American news sites showed just how wildly successful the account had been in injecting a divisive voice into US media, even after the 2016 election.
@TEN_GOP's tweets were used by Fox News to illustrate conservative reaction to minor news events, including the controversy that a writer for Saturday Night Live created when she referred on Twitter to Donald Trump's youngest son, Barron, as "this country's first homeschool shooter." Fox News Insider wrote that conservatives were outraged by the joke, citing five tweets, including that of @TEN_GOP.
In other cases, outlets seemed to base entire articles around sentiments expressed by @TEN_GOP. In March, Breitbart wrote about purported bias at Politico in an examination of that publication's description of the process by which Trump and Barack Obama had selected federal judges. It embedded an @TEN_GOP tweet to bolster its case.
All told, the account was quoted dozens of times across conservative news outlets. Fox News quoted an @TEN_GOP tweet in at least three stories, including one syndicated by the Daily Caller. The Daily Caller itself quoted it in six stories. Breitbart mentioned it in seven; Infowars in four; RedState in eight.
The Gateway Pundit, another conservative outlet, cited the Russian account in 19 different stories, . . . The account's tweets often derided African-Americans, Muslims, and immigrants.
The account became so prominent that a Daily Beast investigation found that some of the highest profile members of Trump's campaign endorsed it.
Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, Trump digital director Brad Parscale, and Trump son Donald Jr. all retweeted @TEN_GOP in the weeks leading up to the election.
Longtime Trump friend Roger Stone also retweeted the account, as did Michael Flynn, who briefly served as Trump's national security adviser before resigning amid reports he'd lied about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.