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Brutal new Senate report on Russian meddling in 2016 election shows just how extensive the attack was on democracy

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo: Screen capture)

The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the extent of the 2016 election meddling at the hands of the Russians.

According to a copy obtained by the Washington Post, Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project worked with the network analysis firm Graphika to detail the impacts Russian agents had using every social media platform available.

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The Russians attempted “to influence online discourse both in support of President Donald Trump’s candidacy and “to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members [of Trump’s main opposition groups] from voting,” the report said.

The study reviewed the millions of posts provided by major technology companies and is the first of its kind.

The operations reportedly “shifted over time, peaking at key political moments, such as presidential debates or party conventions,” the Post said, citing the report.

“What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump,” the report says. “Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting.”

Some Republicans still refuse to believe Russia had any impact on the election, and Trump maintains it did not influence the votes cast, must less his win. The report disputes that, however. If the election seemed overly toxic and divided, it was part of the plan to anger and then mobilize the GOP base.

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“The Russians aimed particular energy at activating conservatives on issues such as gun rights and immigration while sapping the political clout of left-leaning African American voters by undermining their faith in elections and spreading misleading information about how to vote,” the Post reported. “Many other groups — Latinos, Muslims, Christians, gay men and women, liberals, Southerners, veterans — got at least some attention from Russians operating thousands of social media accounts.”

Facebook and Twitter have faced the majority of the public attacks, but for the first time, this report found the impact sites like Google+, YouTube and Tumblr also had.

It’s unclear if the Senate Intelligence Committee will endorse the report, but they are planning to release it publicly with another study this week.

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Read the full report here.


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