Oxford’s Computational Propaganda Research Project has published The IRA, Social Media and Political Polarization in the United States, 2012-2018 a study on one of the indicted Russian groups that attacked the US in the 2016 election.
We have as yet to know the details that should come from a full release of the Mueller report, but there is plenty already available in the indictments. There will be more ways to ascertain whether unclassified materials can point to what “spooky action at a distance” occurred between Russians and Trumpists.
One assumes that the US Intelligence Community (IC) has studied the server activity between countries that we only guess about in 2016 between the Alfa Bank and other US-based servers.
The open question remaining for further non-IC research is whether in 2016 there was shared targeting between the Trump campaign and such malign interests. This would mean that shared, configured data was used by both the Russians doing influence operations and by the Trump campaign using similarly formatted data for their air/ground operations.
2016 was the result of a perfect (data) storm of information that affected GOTV, event scheduling, online and broadcast ad buys, and online trolling. So much has been made of “targeting” when it was a confluence of manipulation, bad decisions and an electoral college vote system. Like Trump’s protecting Russia, it wouldn’t need direct, explicitly collusive communication, simply the sharing of datasets.
Oligarch interests in post-Soviet state capitalism have taken advantage of the outcome in a variety of obvious quid pro quo actions that do not exonerate the current WH. This potential “coordination” still has implications for the 2020 election.
Differential messaging to each of these target groups was designed to push and pull them in different ways. 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 conservative 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. While the IRA strategy was a long-term one, it is clear that activity between 2015 and 2016 was designed to benefit President Trump’s campaign. (p.20)
Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) launched an extended attack on the United States by using computational propaganda to misinform and polarize US voters. This report provides the first major analysis of this attack based on data provided by social media firms to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI).
This analysis answers several key questions about the activities of the known IRA accounts. In this analysis, we investigate how the IRA exploited the tools and platform of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to impact US users. We identify which aspects of the IRA’s campaign strategy got the most traction on social media and the means of microtargeting US voters with particular messages.
- Russia’s IRA activities were designed to polarize the US public and interfere in elections by:
- campaigning for African American voters to boycott elections or follow the wrong voting procedures in 2016, and more recently for Mexican American and Hispanic voters to distrust US institutions;
- encouraging extreme right-wing voters to be more confrontational; and
- spreading sensationalist, conspiratorial, and other forms of junk political news and misinformation to voters across the political spectrum.
- Surprisingly, these campaigns did not stop once Russia’s IRA was caught interfering in the 2016 election. Engagement rates increased and covered a widening range of public policy issues, national security issues, and issues pertinent to younger voters.
A Bandwagon fallacy that “everybody does it” can be applied to the counter-intelligence problem that remains to be revealed in the Mueller investigation.
A New Age of Warfare: How Internet Mercenaries Do Battle for Authoritarian Governments – "The Middle East is the epicenter of this new era of privatized spying" with companies including NSO Group, DarkMatter, Black Cube and Psy-Grouphttps://t.co/mbes52tnet
— Wendy Siegelman (@WendySiegelman) March 21, 2019
And there should be plenty of counter-intelligence information.
this is a very big deal https://t.co/deG3SUdN59
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) March 17, 2019
Evidence cited by the unsealed report included the use of IP addresses run by Russian military intelligence [GRU] hackers, Fancy Bear & Cozy Bear and the IP address of Root SA, which was used in the hack of John Podesta's email.
by @AllMattNYT #Maddow https://t.co/CkywNjMj9s
— Polly Sigh (@dcpoll) March 14, 2019
This account has a disinforming element in contrast to the Oxford report.
A 31-year-old Web designer, Sergey Polozov is suspected of serving as the IT manager for the Internet Research Agency, in which capacity he allegedly rented servers in the United States to help mask the organization’s activities in America. That’s not how he tells it, though. Polozov says he did typical IT work for a loose collection of enterprises that he’s reluctant to describe as a single entity. He told the BBC that his contracted duties included the creation of websites and different automated processes, and he insists that the work was never in English and never had any apparent overarching aims, let alone geopolitical designs.
Given the nature of the technical assignments and communications he encountered on the job, Polozov says the IRA resembled a “pool of organizations,” not a unified, single structure. He says he visited multiple facilities during his IT work for these groups, including the IRA’s best known address at 55 Savushkina Street in St. Petersburg, but he says he encountered a business center for multiple enterprises, not a single operation.
While maintaining the IRA’s scattered, virtually nonexistent structure, Polozov also acknowledges that he worked closely with Mikhail Burchik, whom U.S. officials have identified as a senior executive at the IRA who participated directly in its interference efforts. Polozov also verifies the authenticity of emails leaked in 2014 by the “Anonymous International” group, which mention multiple IRA-linked figures later indicted by the U.S. Justice Department. These records indicate that Polozov was helping the agency automate comments posted on LiveJournal by reversing similarity-detection algorithms created to recognize plagiarism. On Twitter, the IRA used a similar technology to amplify content posted by human staff (“trolls”) using tens of thousands of automated accounts (“bots”). Polozov also worked briefly on the IRA’s corporate website and forwarded several resumes posted on IT recruiting portals.
And then there’s the explicit sharing of 2016 personnel that remains to be investigated.
Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group were overwhelmingly staffed by non-U.S. citizens — mainly Canadians, Britons and other Europeans — at least 20 of whom fanned out across the United States in 2014 to work on congressional and legislative campaigns, the three former Cambridge workers said.
Two other former Cambridge Analytica workers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear that they may have violated U.S. law in their campaign work, said concerns about the legality of Cambridge Analytica’s work in the United States were a regular subject of employee conversations at the company, especially after the 2014 vote.
The company, which asserted that Republican candidates won most of the races it worked on in 2014, also was hired by a super PAC controlled by former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, who was named last week by Trump to be national security adviser. Bolton’s super PAC provided independent expenditure support in 2014 of candidates in Arkansas, New Hampshire and North Carolina.
Bolton’s spokesman, Garrett Marquis, said that Bolton, not individuals at Cambridge Analytica, made all strategic decisions related to the super PAC’s work. Marquis added that the contract with the company stated that Cambridge Analytica’s use of data “was in compliance with applicable laws,” that Bolton’s group hasn’t worked with the company since 2016, and that Bolton had been unaware of any alleged impropriety by Cambridge Analytica until recent news reports. The group no longer uses any of the data.
Those who say obstruction in plain view can’t sink Trump despite the Nixon precedent because the break-in crime Nixon obstructed in secret was established forget that Russia’s criminal hacking has been established too. Trump’s link hasn’t been. But Nixon’s hadn’t been either.
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) March 30, 2019