According to exclusive report by Foreign Policy, Kremlin-backed media outlet RT (previously known as Russia Today) attempted to purchase Twitter handles that would allow them to covertly influence the election.
Following a report that RT claims the U.S. government has asked people associated with its U.S. arm to register as foreign agents, comes more information that the media outlet sought not only to cover the election — but to be a player in the outcome.
The FP report states that RT sought to purchase dormant Twitter handles “@NotHillary” and “@NotTrump,” telling Twitter executives they wanted to use them to push their election coverage — but without identifying themselves as the owners of the accounts.
According to the report, Twitter said “no.”
Speaking with FP, a spokesperson for RT said the social media purchase was part of an attempt to reach undecided voters.
“Trump and Clinton both were entering the election with some of the highest ‘unfavorable’ ratings for presumptive nominees,” explained RT’s Anna Belkina, “RT wanted to explore this subject deeper by engaging into a conversation with the people who were neither in favor of Clinton, nor in favor of Trump, which is the opposite of ‘expressing a clear preference’ for either candidate. As part of this idea, we were considering ways how to adapt it to Twitter, however, we discontinued the concept and did not pursue handle ownership.”
The report notes that two Twitter account names have been siting unused for some time prior to the 2016 election; @NotHillary since May 2014, and @NotTrump since April 2011.
According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, RT has been designated as the “Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet,” working hand-in-hand with Wikileaks — which has been credited for making former Secretary Hillary Clinton’s emails a central issue in the 2016 campaign.
The Foreign Policy report also notes that it is entirely possible that RT has other Twitter accounts not specifically linked back to them and used to push the Kremlin line.