Every time a story comes out and the public is trying to make sense of it, the mainstream media will claim that while the conservative take on the story might be gaining acceptance, but that’s only because its reach is being expanded dramatically by Russian bots.
This came to the fore when Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 people involved in a Russian troll farm with conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 election.
“It didn’t take long [after the indictment came down] for Russian Twitter bots to try to muddy the news cycle’s waters – just as they helped do as part of the very propaganda campaign Mueller describes in the indictment,” wrote April Glaser of Slate, one of the chief water carriers for this attempt to establish a narrative.
The indictments – plunked down in classic news dump fashion – came out late on a Friday afternoon before a long holiday weekend. But by the next morning, according to Slate, seven of the top 10 trending topics “of a collection of 600 Twitter accounts that are known to be linked to Russia – including openly pro-Russia users, accounts that take part in Russian disinformation campaigns and automated bot accounts that parrot Kremlin messaging – were about Mueller’s indictment.”
The numbers come from Hamilton 68, a project of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, which is part of the liberal German Marshall Fund, an organization dedicated to “strengthening Atlantic cooperation.”
According to its website, the 600 Twitter accounts monitored by Hamilton, 68 include openly pro-Russia users, those who tweeted as part of disinformation campaigns openly attributed to Russian media and “a network of accounts that engage in automated behavior (bots) on behalf of other accounts reflecting Russian messaging priorities.”
According to the group, some accounts likely are controlled by the Russian government’s influence operations, others are “patriots” seeking to help Russia in its struggle with the U.S. Still others are users “who have been influenced by the first two groups and who are extremely active in amplifying Russian media themes. These users may or may not understand themselves to be part of the pro-Russia social network.”
So basically, if you are tweeting or Facebooking in favor of conservative views, you are considered a dupe of the Russian government.
Hamilton 68 is careful to point out that not all content from the 600 Twitter accounts was “created” in Russia. In fact, it says it suspects – but doesn’t know – that more than half the content comes from third parties and is then “amplified by the network because it is relevant to Russian messaging themes.”
It further points out that not all content on the network is pro-Russian and that it is “NOT CORRECT [emphasis in original] to describe sites linked by this network as Russian propaganda sites.
“We are not claiming that content producers linked by this network are Russian propaganda sites. Rather, content linked by this network is RELEVANT to Russian messaging themes.”
Users increasingly have disregarded these distinctions.
“Russian bots and fake accounts are tweeting furiously about the Mueller indictment right now, because of course they are,” Glaser tweeted on Saturday.
In her piece, she lamented that “Russia troll accounts continuing to attempt to influence American political conversations” and that Twitter “still hasn’t adequately dealt with its bot problem.”
It has only grown worse since Trump became president, she said.
“Calls for the company to do something about it have grown louder as politicians began to zero in on the role social media companies played in unwittingly facilitating Russian attempts at meddling in the 2016 election.”