Report: “Far-Right” News Sites Included In FBI’s Probe Into Russian Influence on Election


By Kody Fairfield

McClatchy is reporting that Federal investigators are examining whether far-right news sites played any role last year in a Russian cyber operation that dramatically widened the reach of news stories — some fictional — that favored Donald Trump’s presidential bid.

The sources of the report stated that Russian operatives appear to have strategically timed “bots” to blast social media with pro-Trump links at times during the 2016 campaign when Trump was playing defense to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The article explains:

The bots’ end products were largely millions of Twitter and Facebook posts carrying links to stories on conservative internet sites such as Breitbart News and InfoWars, as well as on the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News, the sources said. Some of the stories were false or mixed fact and fiction, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the bot attacks are part of an FBI-led investigation into a multifaceted Russian operation to influence last year’s elections.

Investigators examining the bot attacks are exploring whether the far-right news operations took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives. Their participation, however, wasn’t necessary for the bots to amplify their news through Twitter and Facebook.

McClatchy continues on to say that the investigation into the bots is still in its infancy and that it is being headed up by the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.

A former U.S. intelligence official did tell McClatchy that,”This [use of bots] may be one of the most highly impactful information operations in the history of intelligence.”

Apparently, these bots did not just help to push news stories, they were also utilized to help push document dumps from organizations such as Wikileaks, explains McClatchy.

Philip Howard, a professor at the Oxford University Internet Institute who has researched the bots’ attacks, explained that the bots had also spread links to fictional stories that accused Clinton of involvement in running a child-sex ring in the basement of a Washington pizza parlor.

Howard’s study also showed that bot-generated Twitter traffic during the presidential debates favored Trump over Clinton. The study also showed that  Americans who call themselves “patriotic programmers” also activated “bots” to aid Trump.

Beyond the bots however, McClatchy also claims that Russia utilized “trolls” to pose as pro-Trump supporters, disparaging Clinton all over comment threads inside the world wide web.

“Russian bots and internet trolls sought to propagate stories underground,” said Mike Carpenter, a former senior Pentagon official during the Obama administration whose job focused on Russia, through McClatchy. “Those stories got amplified by fringe elements of our media like Breitbart.”

“They very carefully timed release of information to shift the news cycle away from stories that clearly hurt Mr. Trump, such as his inappropriate conduct over the years,” he said. This is a similar tactic to what is currently used by the White House to deflect stories.
Looking at the merely coincidental evidence in the light of this reported revelation, one now questions the fact that Breitbart has seen its web traffic set records in the last few months, a statistic which has been propelled by connections to social media.
John Podesta, whose emails were distributed by Wikileaks during the campaign, has said “The full impact of the bots was subterranean and corrosive. The distribution channels were being flooded with this information. . . . We perhaps underestimated the strategy of pushing fake news out through social media and how it impacted the race.”
Lauren Goodrich, senior Eurasia analyst at the Stratfor Corp., a global intelligence firm explained to McClatchy that “Russia has again figured out from its old Soviet playbook that its greatest weapon in the world is information. Its information and disinformation campaigns have skyrocketed.”

Goodrich also mentioned that Russia’s budget for “public information” had quadrupled this year as it mounted similar cyber attacks on behalf of right-wing candidates in France, Germany and other European countries.

So far, the FBI has not returned comment on this story, says McClatchy.
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