Twitter to tell 677,775 people they interacted with Kremlin-linked trolls

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The company last year identified thousands of Twitter accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russian government-linked troll army in St. Petersburg that worked to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and to promote chaos and division in American society more generally.

"Consistent with our commitment to transparency, we are emailing notifications to 677,775 people in the United States who followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked a Tweet from these accounts during the election period," Twitter said in a blog post announcing the move.

Twitter initially said it had found 200 accounts linked to the group. Then it told Congress last fall that it had identified 2,752 accounts linked to the group. On Friday, Twitter said it had since identified an additional 1,062 accounts, bringing the total to 3,814. The accounts together sent more than 175,000 tweets, the company said.

...The company also said it had also found more than 50,000 Russian-linked automated accounts that tweeted about the presidential election. Networks of automated accounts are often run from the same computer and sometimes post the same link, talking point or hashtag en-masse in an attempt to make it trend on the platform.

So. This shows two things. We are just beginning to understand how deep this Russian well goes is number one.

And I think the biggest thing it shows is that the wide majority of people aren't mature enough to handle their own decisions. These aren't news sites. These are people pretending to be other people spouting off garbage and that was enough for "mature adults". Someone said something sensationalist that played against biases and that was enough. Let's go off and join the hunt!

One year later, The Government is shutdown with a possibly Russian-controlled puppet at the helm. and Russian has troll-botted its way to one of the most successful Psy-Op campaigns in history.

Good job, everyone.

600,000 people. A very small fraction of the population. Who probably would have voted whatever way they voted regardless, if they are the sort of people to repost links with no scrutiny.

That said, the official Russia sanctioned stuff would probably still be a drop in the ocean compared to the click-bait farmers (the shady Macedonian ones), who are at least as dangerous in undermining trust in the democratic process.

Catnip1024:
600,000 people. A very small fraction of the population. Who probably would have voted whatever way they voted regardless, if they are the sort of people to repost links with no scrutiny.

That said, the official Russia sanctioned stuff would probably still be a drop in the ocean compared to the click-bait farmers (the shady Macedonian ones), who are at least as dangerous in undermining trust in the democratic process.

Remember, a small population voted Trump in. Don't sleep on small populations. The average number of followers people have was 208 in 2016. To be more than fair, I'll tenth that. Say those 677,775 read, favorited, retweeted, or believed that, and just 20 of each of their followers were exposed because of that. With that, 13 Milllion people are made privy to it, if the hypothesis is correct. For the 62,979,879 people who voted for him, that's hardly a drop in the bucket. We call this 'viral' for a reason.

And from the link, some of the most popular Trump ties retweeted some of the garbage (I'm sure we're going to hear apologies from them soon.

White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway retweeted one of the IRA-linked accounts, @TEN_GOP, which was designed to look like it was run by the Tennessee Republican Party, just days before the 2016 election.

Donald Trump Jr. also followed the @TEN_GOP account, CNN found.

And former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, his son Michael Flynn Jr. and former deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka all followed a separate IRA-linked account, a CNN analysis last year found. That account, which used the pseudonym "Jenna Abrams," developed a persona of a conservative American woman, and amassed a following of more than 70,000.

Here, some perspective for you.

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Whether or not Twitter is even credible about this (they banned a black activist from Atlanta for being a "Russian bot" several months ago), this is nowhere near significant. Blaming Russia for Trump is overhyped nonsense being deliberately pushed to distract you, yes you, Carl, from the real issues which plague our country.

Catnip1024:
600,000 people. A very small fraction of the population. Who probably would have voted whatever way they voted regardless, if they are the sort of people to repost links with no scrutiny.

Those 677,775 people were linked to 3,814 accounts, meaning each account was getting engagement from, on average, about 178 people.

Now, consider the 50,000 other accounts. If those had similar engagement, they would be hitting nearly 9 million people, far, far more than Hilary won the popular vote by.

Also, engagement is not the same thing as reach. These 67,775 people are the ones who followed, retweeted or liked a post. Ask anyone who works in social media communications, and they'll tell you that engagement rates are typically low. Twitter as a platform has a typical engagement rate of about 0.5-1%. If we extrapolate that here (questionable, but let's go with it) then the reach of each of these accounts is somewhere between 18,000 and 35,000 people per account. Now, the reality is that the bigger these numbers get the more overlap there will be between people who saw each account, but it's quite reasonable to assume that a significant proportion of the US population have at least seen social media content deliberately intended to influence the US election.

It's very difficult to say what impact it had, but it is potentially much bigger than this relatively small list of names would suggest.

Given the last "Russian twitter bot" proved to be a Glaswegian guy drunkenly ranting on Twitter I do believe there is some onus to actually prove these are bots beyond just saying so.

I will keep you guys updated if I happen to get one of these emails. Because I run in rather right-wing circles and I'm sure that some Russian tried to get me to believe something. But I'm my own man.

Прощай

evilthecat:
Also, engagement is not the same thing as reach. These 67,775 people are the ones who followed, retweeted or liked a post. Ask anyone who works in social media communications, and they'll tell you that engagement rates are typically low.

On the other hand, my social media engagement is several orders of magnitude more than my book sales. There are degrees to this sort of thing. And "reach" isn't anywhere near the same thing as impact.

Seanchaidh:
Whether or not Twitter is even credible about this (they banned a black activist from Atlanta for being a "Russian bot" several months ago), this is nowhere near significant. Blaming Russia for Trump is overhyped nonsense being deliberately pushed to distract you, yes you, Carl, from the real issues which plague our country.

The issue that hundreds of thousands of people are so easily led and duped by troll accounts and possibly will vote due to media fueled bias is not a concern? That people are voted with a lack of information?

It's like the pizza gate thing. You know who was to blame for the actual shooting? Edgar Maddison Welch. He's the one who went into the pizzeria and opened fire for his 'investigation'. Do you know who's culpable? Alex Jones.

We have adult-aged children running around and ruining this country, listening to made up feelings and lies versus facts. And they are voting with that and shaping this nation for us all. Please tell me how that isn't an issue?

ObsidianJones:

We have adult-aged children running around and ruining this country, listening to made up feelings and lies versus facts. And they are voting with that and shaping this nation for us all. Please tell me how that isn't an issue?

Because they ended up losing the election.

ObsidianJones:

Seanchaidh:
Whether or not Twitter is even credible about this (they banned a black activist from Atlanta for being a "Russian bot" several months ago), this is nowhere near significant. Blaming Russia for Trump is overhyped nonsense being deliberately pushed to distract you, yes you, Carl, from the real issues which plague our country.

The issue that hundreds of thousands of people are so easily led and duped by troll accounts and possibly will vote due to media fueled bias is not a concern? That people are voted with a lack of information?

What are you even talking about?

People liked or retweeted something they saw on Twitter. There is nothing weird about that. Was it not truthful? Who knows? Twitter isn't saying anything whatsoever about the content of these tweets. They're just saying that a very small number of tweets in the grand scheme of things came from Russia. They are saying that. And providing precious little evidence that it's actually true.

They've been duped! you say. What does that actually mean? Does something (such as a meme) posted to Twitter necessarily even have a truth value? Is fake news even the most effective form of propaganda? The Soviet Union, for some historical perspective, had among its directives for making propaganda an emphasis on the use of reliable information. Of course they had their own spin, but they tended to avoid baldly lying. Just like the mainstream news.

Joy Reid has 1.07 million followers. The one who said something about "Soviet Yugoslavia", that one. This doofus. She has tweeted 132,000 times. Her pinned tweet has 56,000 retweets. It's some quote by Octavia Butler that she's pretending is newly relevant and interesting (in context, it's thinly veiled shade thrown at the President). Her tweet about Soviet Yugoslavia has 1.2k likes and 551 retweets. Twitter has suggested I follow her countless times (along with Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, and countless other people and cranks). The people I'm actually interested in reading I mostly found without Twitter's helping hand.

ObsidianJones:
It's like the pizza gate thing. You know who was to blame for the actual shooting? Edgar Maddison Welch. He's the one who went into the pizzeria and opened fire for his 'investigation'. Do you know who's culpable? Alex Jones.

Alex Jones has more followers by himself than the number of individual tweet engagements Twitter is saying came from Russian accounts.

By himself. And that's just his twitter presence; hard to see that Twitter presence actually resulting in anything without all the other media he's involved in (youtube and whatnot). The whole of pizzagate speculation resulted in... a guy doing something violent. One verifiable event. And you're telling me Russian bots swung the election? With information we haven't seen?

Is a phenomenon like Pizzagate happening again something to be concerned about? Perhaps; but Alex Jones is a good old American nutjob. Like Joy Reid or Tucker Carlson or Rachel Maddow or Neera Tanden or Paul Joseph Watson. So we've mostly just given him a pass.

You know what Twitter isn't talking about? David Brock's Correct the Record trolls. Wonder how many likes and retweets those people got. Or Israel's propaganda. Or the United States government's own propaganda (which it can deploy against the people of the United States).

ObsidianJones:
We have adult-aged children running around and ruining this country, listening to made up feelings and lies versus facts. And they are voting with that and shaping this nation for us all. Please tell me how that isn't an issue?

Yeah, Russia didn't accomplish that; Comcast, Google, Fox, and CNN did. Mainstream news is corporate propaganda. Which is to say, political theater: the right wing of the money party versus the left centrist wing of the money party. This is not a problem with Russia, it's a problem with media concentration and control of media by wealth. Russian-linked Twitter accounts don't even begin to scratch the surface of all the propaganda that's out there. But it is a convenient bogeyman for people who want something to blame other than failures of capitalism for this country looking like interwar Germany; it's a comforting scapegoat for bougie centrists-- if we just get a handle on this trifling foreign meddling, we'll be rid of the orange menace and we can all go back to the way things were: the golden age. The nineties. But with drone strikes, militarized police, even more money in politics, and even less ability for the people to have their voice heard. Well, assuming we don't get net neutrality back, or that grassroots organization doesn't overcome all the structural issues that make our system a de facto oligarchy.

If you're worried about Russian plutocrats having influence over our elections, you should be ten thousand times more worried about American plutocrats having influence over our elections.

bonus edit:

bonus bonus edit:

Seanchaidh:
*snip*

As interested as you seem to be in a gotcha moment, my point is still the stripped down version that you just quoted.

People are getting their information and opinions based on easily swayed media sources.

Russia, Joy Reid, Alex Jones, Katy Perry, Jaden Smith, people are getting their opinions via personalities instead of the facts. That's a problem. It has always been a problem, but before we had the luxury of having one person's opinion only hitting locally. It's not up for debate if Russia interfered. They did. Did it change the election? More evidence is needed to figure that out one way or the other, but most likely impossible because few people would be real enough to admit to themselves if it was the case or not, much less report it.

But they didn't do it for shits and giggles. It wasn't a funny prank that we'd all laugh about like a cheesy 80's sitcom. Even to see if they could do it, they did it. Whether it was a grand attack, a comeuppance, or a test, it happened. Hat's off to them for a job well done.

What is concerning is people see this and they do not care. They see truth that was uncovered by our highest levels of intelligence gathering... It doesn't matter. This is a foreign country showing they can influence minds with 160 characters or less. These are supposedly grown adults who were easily swayed for probably just the sake of discord.

A foreign act was committed to the American people and instead of seeing it, realizing what happened, and opening up communication in order to band together as a more united front... We say fuck it, let's talk about this crap instead. That, to say the least, is disconcerting.

Seanchaidh:
They've been duped! you say. What does that actually mean? Does something (such as a meme) posted to Twitter necessarily even have a truth value? Is fake news even the most effective form of propaganda? The Soviet Union, for some historical perspective, had among its directives for making propaganda an emphasis on the use of reliable information. Of course they had their own spin, but they tended to avoid baldly lying. Just like the mainstream news.

Sure, but the Soviet Union is gone. The world the Soviet Union operated in is gone.

Russia is a democracy now. It's a special kind of democracy though, because it's one where the same people keep ending up in power. Keeping this going requires a very sophisticated management of the theatrical side of politics and media, which the current administration in Russia is exceptionally talented at.

The point of a lot of contemporary Russian media manipulation isn't to control the narrative, but to create a situation in which people cannot trust any narrative, and in which it becomes impossible to spot accurate information from false information. The internet is instrumental in this, because it naturally proliferates a huge amount of questionable information, conspiracy theory and conflicting accounts of the same events.

For example, we know that as well as pretending to be American conservatives, Russian propaganda groups have also impersonated American LGBT activists (despite the fact that this would be illegal on Russian social media). Often, we have absolutely no idea what the purpose of these seemingly contradictory actions is, and it's highly likely that this is part of the point. Ultimately, the paranoia and conspiracy theories about Russian manipulation is a form of Russian manipulation, with the end result being political paralysis and the inability to discern fact from fiction.

evilthecat:

Seanchaidh:
They've been duped! you say. What does that actually mean? Does something (such as a meme) posted to Twitter necessarily even have a truth value? Is fake news even the most effective form of propaganda? The Soviet Union, for some historical perspective, had among its directives for making propaganda an emphasis on the use of reliable information. Of course they had their own spin, but they tended to avoid baldly lying. Just like the mainstream news.

Sure, but the Soviet Union is gone. The world the Soviet Union operated in is gone.

Russia is a democracy now. It's a special kind of democracy though, because it's one where the same people keep ending up in power. Keeping this going requires a very sophisticated management of the theatrical side of politics and media, which the current administration in Russia is exceptionally talented at.

The point of a lot of contemporary Russian media manipulation isn't to control the narrative, but to create a situation in which people cannot trust any narrative, and in which it becomes impossible to spot accurate information from false information. The internet is instrumental in this, because it naturally proliferates a huge amount of questionable information, conspiracy theory and conflicting accounts of the same events.

For example, we know that as well as pretending to be American conservatives, Russian propaganda groups have also impersonated American LGBT activists (despite the fact that this would be illegal on Russian social media). Often, we have absolutely no idea what the purpose of these seemingly contradictory actions is, and it's highly likely that this is part of the point. Ultimately, the paranoia and conspiracy theories about Russian manipulation is a form of Russian manipulation, with the end result being political paralysis and the inability to discern fact from fiction.

The focus on specifically Russia on this issue as it affects the United States is pathologically narrow.

The Russian people strongly vote for either who is bald or who has hair. I think you're giving Russian internal propoganda too much credit.

Seanchaidh:

evilthecat:

Seanchaidh:
They've been duped! you say. What does that actually mean? Does something (such as a meme) posted to Twitter necessarily even have a truth value? Is fake news even the most effective form of propaganda? The Soviet Union, for some historical perspective, had among its directives for making propaganda an emphasis on the use of reliable information. Of course they had their own spin, but they tended to avoid baldly lying. Just like the mainstream news.

Sure, but the Soviet Union is gone. The world the Soviet Union operated in is gone.

Russia is a democracy now. It's a special kind of democracy though, because it's one where the same people keep ending up in power. Keeping this going requires a very sophisticated management of the theatrical side of politics and media, which the current administration in Russia is exceptionally talented at.

The point of a lot of contemporary Russian media manipulation isn't to control the narrative, but to create a situation in which people cannot trust any narrative, and in which it becomes impossible to spot accurate information from false information. The internet is instrumental in this, because it naturally proliferates a huge amount of questionable information, conspiracy theory and conflicting accounts of the same events.

For example, we know that as well as pretending to be American conservatives, Russian propaganda groups have also impersonated American LGBT activists (despite the fact that this would be illegal on Russian social media). Often, we have absolutely no idea what the purpose of these seemingly contradictory actions is, and it's highly likely that this is part of the point. Ultimately, the paranoia and conspiracy theories about Russian manipulation is a form of Russian manipulation, with the end result being political paralysis and the inability to discern fact from fiction.

The focus on specifically Russia on this issue as it affects the United States is pathologically narrow.

The article is about how people in this country were influenced by Russian government-backed agencies. We didn't talk about French Twitter trolls because we don't have evidence of French Twitter trolls. No Japanese because we didn't find evidence of Japanese trolls. We're focusing on Russia because we found evidence that Russia, with the government's blessing, tried (and possibly succeeded) with our election.

A terrorist attack in New York doesn't mean they just want to hurt New York. The effort is to try to put uncertainty in the hearts of all Americans. "Yes, we hit New York, but that doesn't mean you're safe" sort of thing. The numbers of Americans aren't massive. That really doesn't matter. The intent was, as the article puts it from our intelligence findings, "to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and to promote chaos and division in American society more generally."

And did it not work?

We had a weird last year. From seeing not less than two Trump picked top aides with ties to Russia, Don Jr.'s emails, The ties between Trump, Deustchebank, and Russian itself (Trump owes 300 million to Deustchebank if you don't know, who he just gave a pass to), to a white Nationalist rally that had the weird chant "Russia is our friend!"

We have Adult-Children, a grand total of 42% of Republicans and 17% of Democrats who immediately calls something fake news if it has to do with casting their favored politician in a negative light, even if the information is accurate.

The nation is in sorry shape. Is Russia to blame for all of it? No. Parts of it... hell, it was in their manifesto. I'm not interested in quibbling over how much of our current problems are Russia's fault. I'm interested in the problem that is Russia's fault. This is it. Just like I'm not interested in pinning all of America's problems in Trump. Just the problems Trump caused.

Это дерьмо и поддельные новости

Zontar:
Это дерьмо и поддельные новости

I'd give a witty reply running my text through a English-Russian translation but for some reason Cyrillic letters are just showing up as questionmarks for me.

evilthecat:

Sure, but the Soviet Union is gone. The world the Soviet Union operated in is gone.

Russia is a democracy now. It's a special kind of democracy though, because it's one where the same people keep ending up in power. Keeping this going requires a very sophisticated management of the theatrical side of politics and media, which the current administration in Russia is exceptionally talented at.

Russia is no kind of democracy. It runs a few utter shams of elections every so often, in which the government rigs the outcome and threatens extreme violence to opponents and voters who might have had an impact.

The theatrics, as you describe them, are important in a kind of longer game, moulding the domestic image of the President and ensuring a smoothly rigged election. But they do not win elections for Putin; there isn't an actual election to begin with.

Silvanus:

evilthecat:

Sure, but the Soviet Union is gone. The world the Soviet Union operated in is gone.

Russia is a democracy now. It's a special kind of democracy though, because it's one where the same people keep ending up in power. Keeping this going requires a very sophisticated management of the theatrical side of politics and media, which the current administration in Russia is exceptionally talented at.

Russia is no kind of democracy. It runs a few utter shams of elections every so often, in which the government rigs the outcome and threatens extreme violence to opponents and voters who might have had an impact.

The theatrics, as you describe them, are important in a kind of longer game, moulding the domestic image of the President and ensuring a smoothly rigged election. But they do not win elections for Putin; there isn't an actual election to begin with.

Case in point, even if those involved claim it was accidental.

Russia is not "democratic" by any stretch of the imagination. I'm just concerned about the power struggle that will erupt when Putin finally croaks.

Yeah, but how would you legitimately police such operations to begin with? Yeah, Russia is going to interfere with U.S. elections ... but then again so are U.S. officials interfering with allied efforts to monitor how the Russians were interfering with U.S. elections.

What with U.S. officials outing the source of the person that tipped them off about the possible extent of Russian spikes into the party systems.

ObsidianJones:
The article is about how people in this country were influenced by Russian government-backed agencies.

The article is one of many, an outsize focus on one particularly insignificant part of a much larger issue. The action by Twitter is offensively selective in its scope.

ObsidianJones:
We are just beginning to understand how deep this Russian well goes is number one.

I made a post about it some months ago (specifically a FBI investigation about Russia's misinformation agency). Russia is still miles ahead on misinformation tactics than the USA.

EDIT: Correction. CIA investigation.

https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol53no4/pdf/U-%20Boghardt-AIDS-Made%20in%20the%20USA-17Dec.pdf

I wonder what is going to happen when we start pressuring Russian Oligarchs with sanctions that freeze Putin's personal wealth that is being held in the western bank accounts of Russian Oligarchs.

That way their personal wealth will have to be held in unstable currencies that could inflate.

Gergar12:
I wonder what is going to happen when we start pressuring Russian Oligarchs with sanctions that freeze Putin's personal wealth that is being held in the western bank accounts of Russian Oligarchs.

That way their personal wealth will have to be held in unstable currencies that could inflate.

That's assuming his personal wealth is just paper assets like money, stocks or bonds (which usually isn't the case for rich people).

 

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