The Russian propaganda machine that tried to influence the 2016 U.S. election is now promoting the presidential aspirations of a controversial Hawaii Democrat who earlier this month declared her intention to run for president in 2020.
…[Gabbard] has become a favorite of the sites Moscow used when it interfered in 2016.
…[From when] Gabbard announced her intention to run on Jan. 11 [through this article being published a month later], there [were] at least 20 Gabbard stories on three major Moscow-based English-language websites affiliated with or supportive of the Russian government: RT, the Russian-owned TV outlet; Sputnik News, a radio outlet; and Russia Insider, a blog that experts say closely follows the Kremlin line. The CIA has called RT and Sputnik part of “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine.”
…”Her promulgation of positions compatible with Russian geo strategic interests can help them mainstream such discussion in the [Democratic] party,” said Alex Stamos, former chief security officer at Facebook and now an NBC News analyst. Gabbard, said Stamos, helps them with all their “lines of attack.”
…RT began defending Gabbard as soon as she announced.
…Experts in Russian on-line propaganda say Gabbard appeals to pro-Russian sites because her positions —and her appeal as an outsider in her own party — can be used to create division among Democrats.
…The language used to laud Gabbard is reminiscent of Russian media promotion of Jill Stein, the U.S. Green Party candidate for president in 2012 and 2016. Stein received favorable coverage from the same outlets and also benefited from Russian troll accounts.
…Russians may be gravitating to Gabbard not because they think she can win, but because her positions, often in line with those of the Kremlin, will become part of the Democratic primary debates.
…”They want someone like Gabbard to voice a Russian position. They are not telling her what to say but they want her pro-Russian positions play into the debate.”
Stamos agrees that Gabbard could be used to inject pro-Russian positions into the Democratic Party’s discussions and debates during primary season.
“We should expect the Russian intel services and troll farms to be active in the Democratic primary process,” said Stamos, “as this provides them with the best opportunity to create the most division in American society in 2020.”
…In 2016, negative coverage and fabricated stories about Hillary Clinton were amplified by a huge network of fake social media accounts and bots.
Experts who track inauthentic social media accounts, however, have already found some extolling Gabbard’s positions since she declared.
Within a few days of Gabbard announcing her presidential bid, DisInfo 2018, part of the cybersecurity firm New Knowledge, found that three of the top 15 URLs shared by the 800 social media accounts affiliated with known and suspected Russian propaganda operations directed at U.S. citizens were about Gabbard.
“A few of our analysts saw some chatter on 8chan saying she was a good ‘divider’ candidate to amplify,” said Renee DiResta, director of research at New Knowledge.
Josh Russell, a researcher and “troll hunter” known for identifying fake accounts, similarly told NBC News he recently spotted a few clusters of suspicious accounts that retweeted the same exact text about Gabbard, mostly neutral or slightly positive headlines.
Again, whether or not she knows this, whether or not she is willingly cooperating with a foreign government in an effort to effect elections in the United States, Gabbard IS a Russian asset.