Accuracy in Media

Monday’s Washington Post included a “report prepared for the Senate that provides the most sweeping analysis yet of Russia’s disinformation campaign around the 2016 election.”

The wording indicates the Senate requested the report or intended to use it as evidence in oversight investigations, but the story later admits neither Democrats nor Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee endorsed the findings or planned to include them as part of the congressional records.

It also doesn’t make clear the results conflict with those of other researchers who have looked into this issue extensively. Rather, it tries to connect it to other research that serves the narrative that, as the Post put it in “New report on Russian disinformation, prepared for the Senate, shows the operation’s scale and sweep,” by Craig Timberg and Tony Romm, “Russian agents sought to help Trump win the White House.”

The report the Post wrote about found Russians “working at the Internet Research Agency,” the Russian operation that has been charged by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team with criminal offenses for interfering in the 2016 campaign, “sliced Americans into key interest groups for targeted messaging. These efforts shifted over time, peaking at key political moments, such as presidential debates or party conventions.”

It then quotes from the report: “What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party – and specifically Donald Trump. Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting.”

The Russians “aimed particular energy at activating conservatives on issues such as gun rights and immigration, while sapping the political clout of left-leaning African American voters by undermining their faith in elections and spreading misleading information about how to vote.”

In February, when Mueller charged the troll farm, others looked into what had happened and found, among other things, that all this multi-platform assault on the American electorate was done for less than a quarter-million dollars in ad buys.

The New York Times’ “Fact-Checking a Facebook Executive’s Comments on Russian Interference” by Sheera Frenkel, was done, according to the subhead, because the remarks of Facebook vice-president Rob Goldman had been retweeted by the president.

Goldman said in one tweet: “I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitely that swaying the election was NOT the main goal.” The Times wrote” “Not according to the indictment.” The indictment secured by Mueller said the Russians “engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”

The piece also cited Goldman’s tweet: “The single best demonstration of Russia’s true motives is the Houston anti-Islamic protest. Americans were literally puppeted into the streets by trolls who organized both sides of the protest.”

The Times wrote: “This needs context.”

In another, he pointed out most of the Russian ad spending took place after the election, so it could not have been crucial to Trump’s election.

The Times wrote: “True, but here is some context.” The context took issue with Goldman saying not many mainstream media outlets had reported those numbers, but CNN, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal had.

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