How Russian trolls manipulated American politics

A new complaint ...

Posted: Oct 20, 2018 11:24 PM
Updated: Oct 20, 2018 11:24 PM

A new complaint unsealed Friday revealed extraordinary new details of how Russian trolls manipulate US politics and try to fool unsuspecting Americans on social media.

A Kremlin-friendly oligarch has allegedly continued pumping millions of dollars into the St. Petersburg troll farm that was responsible for interfering with the 2016 election.

Continents and regions

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Criminal law

Demographic groups

Donald Trump

Eastern Europe

Europe

Gays and lesbians

Government and public administration

Indictments

Investigations

Law and legal system

North America

Political Figures - US

Politics

Population and demographics

Robert Mueller

Russia

Russia meddling investigation

Sex and gender issues

Society

The Americas

United States

The Justice Department said the Russians "took extraordinary steps" to hide the fact that their controversial posts were coming from foreign meddlers. To make that happen, managers at the troll farm gave employees comprehensive instructions on how to pose as American activists, according to a court filing. Often these directions accompanied real article that the trolls would share, along with their own comments.

Here are highlights from the court filing:

They target specific politicians

Managers at the troll farm told their employees to attack specific American politicians.

"Brand McCain as an old geezer who has lost it and who long ago belonged in a home for the elderly," said one instruction from 2017. "Emphasize that John McCain's pathological hatred towards Donald Trump and towards all his initiatives crosses all reasonable borders and limits."

Directions about House Speaker Paul Ryan said trolls should describe him as a "complete and absolute nobody incapable of any decisiveness" and encourage Americans to vote him out of office by supporting his Democratic opponent Randy Bryce. (These instructions were allegedly written in August 2017, months before Ryan announced his intention to retire from Congress.)

Another set of instructions told the trolls to "expose Marco Rubio as a fake conservative who is a traitor to Republican values," referring to the Florida senator who ran against Trump in 2016.

They latched onto the Mueller probe

It's clear from the complaint that the Russian trolls latched onto the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller, which has dominated US politics for the past year.

The instructions said: "Special prosecutor Mueller is a puppet of the establishment. List scandals that took place when Mueller headed the FBI. Direct attention to the listed examples."

Other Kremlin-backed accounts on Twitter shared messages that encouraged Democrats and liberals to protest in the streets if Trump ever fired Mueller. These opposing messages highlight how the Russian trolls tried to inflame people on opposite sides of a major political issue.

They are media savvy

According to the filing, the Russians were familiar with the US media landscape, which includes mainstream news outlets, partisan websites, conspiracy websites, opinion-driven content and just about everything in between.

"If you write posts in a liberal group, ... you must not use Breitbart titles. On the contrary, if you write posts in a conservative group, do not use Washington Post or BuzzFeed's title," one troll farm manager wrote to his or her employees in October 2017, according to the complaint.

Posting articles from the right-wing outlet Breitbart in a Facebook group that proposes liberal causes could tip off unsuspecting Americans that the posts were not authentic or in character.

They are aware of intersectionality

The instructions show how the Russian trolls tried to manipulate the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. They also allegedly wanted to take advantage of racial divisions within LGBT audiences, and some of their instructions appear to lean on blatantly racist stereotypes.

"Colored LGBT are less sophisticated than white; therefore, complicated phrases and messages do not work," the instructions allegedly said. "Be careful dealing with racial content. Just like ordinary Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans, colored LGBT people are very sensitive towards #whiteprivilege and they react to posts and pictures that favor white people."

Some parts of the Russians' efforts to target LGBT voters have already been revealed, including a Facebook group called "LGBT United" that posted some ads that went viral in 2016.

They went after California

Several sets of instructions told the trolls to spread inflammatory messages about California.

"Characterize the position of Californian sanctuary cities along with the position of the entire California administration as absolutely and completely treacherous and disgusting," one manager allegedly wrote, referring to cities that refuse to crack down on undocumented immigrants.

Trolls were also told to emphasize the issue of requiring Americans to show ID before voting. One manager told an employee to suggest that there was significant voter fraud in California.

"Emphasize that all illegal voters must be kept away from the ballot boxes at distances 'beyond artillery firing range.' ... Remind that the majority of the 'blue states' have no VOTER IDs, which suggests that large-scale falsifications are bound to be happening there."

They were self-aware

A dozen Russians who allegedly worked at the troll farm, and their oligarch patron, were indicted in February. The indictment was the first brought by Mueller against Russians, and it revealed for the first time the inner workings of the troll farm, known as the Internet Research Agency,

Instead of shying away from the spotlight, some of the trolls seized on the moment to double down on their influence campaign.

One Kremlin-linked Twitter account chimed in on the day of the indictment: "Russians indicted today: 13. Illegal immigrants crossing Mexican border indicted today: 0. Anyway, I hope that all those Internet Research Agency f***ers will be sent to gitmo."

Terre Haute
Overcast
49° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 45°
Robinson
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 44°
Indianapolis
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 42°
Rockville
Overcast
43° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 37°
Casey
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 41°
Brazil
Overcast
49° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 45°
Marshall
Overcast
49° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 45°
Mostly cloudy, a bit warmer.
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 350744

Reported Deaths: 9496
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1651985364
DuPage20947598
Lake19546503
Will16898419
Kane15422341
Winnebago9114165
St. Clair7559213
Madison6795152
Champaign568028
McHenry5642120
Peoria424362
McLean386730
Rock Island367088
Unassigned3627260
Sangamon347554
Kankakee316878
Macon256848
Kendall247027
Tazewell240547
LaSalle218460
DeKalb209542
Coles178838
Williamson170958
Boone165524
Adams163315
Clinton158724
Vermilion15417
Jackson143325
Whiteside115222
Randolph114514
Knox10969
Effingham10903
Ogle10527
Grundy8777
Jefferson85844
Monroe84928
Bureau84717
Marion84512
Franklin8406
Stephenson8147
Morgan79624
Henry7945
Christian77125
Macoupin7319
Union73025
McDonough66515
Fayette63019
Crawford6246
Lee6121
Shelby5868
Livingston54910
Montgomery54815
Douglas5458
Logan5434
Woodford54311
Saline5037
Bond4669
Jersey45621
Iroquois45119
Warren4517
Cass44911
Wayne43410
Jo Daviess4275
Perry40616
Fulton4030
Moultrie3755
Carroll3658
Richland31714
Johnson3130
Lawrence3068
Hancock2843
Clay28111
Washington2781
Greene26915
Clark2666
Pike2604
Cumberland2536
Jasper24710
Mason2351
White2351
De Witt2273
Pulaski2261
Mercer2196
Piatt2070
Wabash2055
Ford1799
Menard1591
Massac1412
Edgar1398
Marshall1373
Hamilton1132
Henderson1110
Alexander1081
Gallatin1052
Edwards980
Brown960
Scott930
Putnam850
Schuyler801
Stark792
Calhoun690
Hardin490
Pope361
Out of IL20

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 149166

Reported Deaths: 3960
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion24564781
Lake13079350
St. Joseph8788157
Elkhart8371132
Allen7815221
Hamilton5923113
Vanderburgh553050
Tippecanoe350914
Monroe319438
Hendricks3140130
Johnson2972127
Porter293248
Clark282157
Delaware279674
Vigo248837
Madison226991
Cass221020
LaPorte213057
Warrick186563
Kosciusko173121
Floyd172766
Howard157466
Bartholomew138657
Dubois133724
Marshall130626
Henry121828
Boone118648
Grant118039
Wayne117123
Hancock114144
Noble111333
Jackson107412
Morgan91540
Dearborn90328
Daviess83732
Gibson82611
Clinton81316
Shelby78329
Lawrence77832
LaGrange76615
Harrison73324
Knox69610
Putnam69515
DeKalb68611
Posey6745
Steuben5888
Miami5765
Fayette57515
Montgomery56422
White56215
Jasper5464
Greene51237
Scott50613
Decatur49439
Adams4645
Whitley4316
Clay4276
Sullivan42412
Ripley4178
Wells4125
Orange38624
Wabash3859
Starke3847
Huntington3695
Spencer3686
Franklin36325
Jennings35913
Washington3512
Randolph3378
Fulton3292
Jefferson3285
Pike31612
Carroll30813
Perry28914
Jay2816
Fountain2743
Tipton26623
Parke2182
Newton21111
Vermillion2111
Rush2034
Owen1991
Martin1950
Blackford1903
Crawford1481
Pulaski1431
Brown1283
Ohio1187
Benton1070
Union1020
Switzerland840
Warren731
Unassigned0233