A report prepared for the Senate that provides the most sweeping analysis yet of Russia’s disinformation campaign around the 2016 election found the operation used every major social media platform to deliver words, images and videos tailored to voters’ interests to help elect US President Donald Trump – and worked even harder to support him while in office.
The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, is the first to study the millions of posts provided by major technology firms to the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Republican Senator Richard Burr, its chairman, and Democrat Senator Mark Warner. The bipartisan panel hasn’t said if it endorses the findings. It plans to release it publicly along with another study later this week.
The research – by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika, a network analysis firm – offers new details on how Russians working at the Internet Research Agency, which US officials have charged with criminal offences for meddling in the 2016 campaign, sliced Americans into key interest groups for the purpose of targeting messages. These efforts shifted over time, peaking at key political moments, such as presidential debates or party conventions, the report found.
The data sets used by the researchers were provided by Facebook, Twitter and Google and covered several years up to mid-2017, when the social media companies cracked down on the known Russian accounts. The report, which also analysed data separately provided to House intelligence committee members, contains no information on more recent political moments, such as November’s midterm election.