Saturday, March 03, 2018

Study: "Conservatives" Got Played by Russian Trolls 30 Times More than "Liberals"

Russian troll factory near St. Petersburg, Russia
Republicans and "conservatives" - which in today's political atmosphere equates to white supremacists, white nationalist and evangelical Christian extremists - like to claim that they are the "real Americans" and the true American patriots.  All this despite their allegiance to a man who, in my mind, likely committed treason during his campaign and who is doing severe harm to America, both domestically and internationally.  All that is needed to win such people over is incendiary - and generally untrue - information that attacks their favorite targets: immigrants, blacks, gays, liberals, etc.   Thrown this bait, these "conservatives" seemingly will believe anything.  As a new study reveals, Russian efforts to throw the 2016 presidential campaign to Trump knew this and played Trump supporters for fools (not something too difficult) and these folks retweeted Russian trolls thirty (30) times more than political "liberals."  That's the findings of a new study.  Here are highlights from a piece that looks at how Russian trolls duped mindless and/or bigoted "conservatives":
Over the past two weeks, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian individuals and three companies for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. The spotlight fell on one company, the Internet Research Agency and its so-called Russian trolls, who wrote fake news articles, impersonated Americans on social media and worked to manipulated people to promote certain agendas.
Now, a band of computational social scientists at the University of Southern California has measured the influence of those faceless trolls and bots in the Twitterverse.
They report in an early-release study that American conservatives shared tweets and content from Russian trolls about 30 times more often than liberals right before the 2016 election.
Badawy’s team looked at 2,752 now-deactivated Twitter accounts owned by Internet Research Agency trolls and found that 221 of these accounts showed up in their dataset.
The team found 40,000 different American users retweeted Russian trolls more than 80,000 times. And though some tweets showed bias toward both liberals and conservatives, pro-Trump and conservative-leaning messages made up a majority of the messages. Most of the retweets of Russian trolls came from two southern states — Texas and Tennessee. Texans shared more than 26,000 Russian tweets and Tennesseans shared nearly 50,000. The issue here is how much we believe what we read,” Badawy said. “There is going to be a lot of content that we’re not sure of anymore, and this problem opens up more room for doubt in American politics and politics around the world.”
“These manipulations and sharing of fake news affects the free and open exchange of information in the market,” Menczer added. “And democracy rests on the assumption of a well-informed citizenry. If others can manipulate how information circulates, then they’re able to manipulate our democracy.”
Sadly, most of the "conservative" news outlets - think Fox News and Breitbart among others - specialize in fake news and/or carefully edited and propaganda that are the antithesis to having a well informed citizenry.

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