Some content that was initiated by the Russian government, operating through the Internet Research Agency (IRA), still lives on social media platforms here and the Kremlin’s interference operations are likely to continue – now and through 2020, experts found.
…The Oxford report, which also drew from data provided to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said IRA’s activities began on Twitter in 2013, before evolving into a “multi-platform strategy” that included Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other platforms.
“The scale of their operation was massive,” New Knowledge’s authors wrote, citing the 126 million Facebook users and 20 million Instagram users whom they estimated were reached by IRA content. The IRA’s efforts also included posting more than 10.4 million tweets and 1,000 YouTube videos, as well as targeting other, less prominent platforms, including Tumblr, Reddit and Pinterest.
…”The most prolific IRA efforts on Facebook and Instagram specifically targeted Black American communities,” New Knowledge’s report said, “and appear to have been focused on developing Black audiences and recruiting Black Americans as assets.”
The report included new details on the ways in which IRA operatives engaged in direct outreach and recruitment of American citizens, coaxing them to protest or perform specific jobs or tasks, and even attempting to forge personal connections around difficult personal struggles like sex addiction.
…Facebook and Instagram posts targeting right-wing users and mocking the idea of Russian interference as well as the media outlets that covered it sprouted up in the election’s immediate aftermath.
“What we’ve seen here is a sophisticated operation that does not hesitate to reach out to individual Americans, that does not hesitate to turn them into unwitting tools of the Russian government,” said Renee DiResta, one of the principal authors of New Knowledge’s report. “We believe they are going to spend less time creating their own, easily-detectable pages in bad English, and begin engaging in even more targeted outreach, including by infiltrating political fringe groups to opportunistically exploit divisions.”