A Russian group, Internet Research Agency, backed by the Kremlin, is reported to have made attempts to cause trouble in the upcoming presidential election in the US. This is believed to be the same group that interfered with the 2016 election and hacked the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a few others. This time IRA created a fake news publication and staffed it with fake editors to launch a disinformation campaign. The content was shared on social media by news page PeaceData. The United States presidential election is scheduled for November 3.
Social media platforms are still criticized, even by their own employees, for not doing enough in 2016 to get ahead of the issue. This time Facebook and Twitter have informed about removing 2 pages and 13 accounts, and 5 accounts respectively for sharing news articles from PeaceData.net. The social media companies also told that they received a tip from the FBI in early summer about the occurrence of such events.
RAccording to the BBC, Facebook said that the campaign had yet reached around 14,000 followers, whereas the English language page had an audience of 200 only. Compared to their efforts in 2016, these efforts are negligible. Facebook also told that deleted accounts used fake names and pictures, but the content was real and well written. On the other hand, twitter mentioned that low quality and spammy content came from these pages that barely got any likes or retweets. The campaigns were not only targeted against the US but included other countries, including the UK and Egypt.
However, the articles are still alive and active on the Peace Data website. As a response to Facebook and Twitter, PeaceData has called all the acquisitions baseless and hits back at Mark Zuckerberg for having a history of working with unknown organizations. PeaceData, in their response, claims that big names like CNN, FBI, and Facebook are the enemies of freedom of speech and does not like to see them raising a voice against the police brutality and other world atrocities.
The Internet Research Agency is a Russian company that involves in online influence operations on behalf of Russian businesses and political interests. Although Twitter avoided naming anyone behind these actions, Facebook clearly stated that the Peace Data website was linked to “individuals associated with past activity by the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA)”. One of the freelance writers for PeaceData stated that IRA posted for writer jobs on an online board. The writers were hired Americans who had no idea about what they were getting into.
The fact that Donald Trump did not comment on the scenario, people in opposition came out. Bill Russo, a spokesperson for Joe Biden’s campaign, said this is clear evidence that Donald Trump is getting Russian help to drive voters away from Biden.
Featured image: Dado Ruvic / Reuters