Who wants Russia? Loudest assaults on US vote are from Trump

Who wants Russia? Loudest assaults on US vote are from Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia did not should elevate a finger.

Within the weeks earlier than the U.S. presidential election, federal authorities warned that Russia or different international international locations would possibly unfold false details about the outcomes to discredit the legitimacy of the end result.

Seems, the loudest megaphone for that message belonged to not Russia however to President Donald Trump, who has trumpeted a blizzard of totally debunked claims to proclaim that he, not President-elect Joe Biden, was the rightful winner.

The ensuing chaos is in step with longstanding Russian pursuits to sow discord in the USA and to chip away on the nation’s democratic foundations and standing on the world stage. If the 2016 election raised considerations about international interference in U.S. politics, the 2020 contest reveals how People themselves, and their leaders, generally is a highly effective supply of disinformation with out different governments even needing to do the work.

“For fairly some time at this level, the Kremlin has been capable of basically simply use and amplify the content material, the false and deceptive and sensational politically divisive content material generated by political officers and American themselves” somewhat than create their very own narratives and content material, mentioned former CIA officer Cindy Otis, vice chairman for evaluation on the Alethea Group, which tracks disinformation.

U.S. officers had been on excessive alert for international interference heading into Nov. 3, particularly after a presidential election 4 years earlier wherein Russian intelligence officers hacked Democratic emails and Russian troll farms used social media to sway public opinion.

Public service bulletins from the FBI and the Division of Homeland Safety’s cybersecurity arm warned of the methods Russia or different international locations might intervene once more, together with by creating or altering web sites after the election to unfold false details about the outcomes “in an try to discredit the electoral course of and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic establishments.”

But lots of the false claims about voting, elections and the candidates within the months and weeks forward of the election — and within the days since — originated not from international actors desirous to destabilize the U.S. however from home teams and Trump himself.

“Nearly all of that is home,” mentioned Alex Stamos, the director of the Stanford Web Observatory and a member of the Election Integrity Partnership, a gaggle of main disinformation specialists who studied on-line misinformation regarding the 2020 election.

Stamos mentioned that whereas there have been some small indications of international interference on social media, it amounted to “nothing that has been all that attention-grabbing” in contrast with the flood of claims shared by People themselves.

Although Russian hackers had focused state and native networks within the months earlier than the election, Election Day got here and went with out the dreaded assaults on voting infrastructure, and federal officers and different specialists have mentioned there is no such thing as a proof voting programs have been compromised or any votes have been misplaced or modified.

That is to not say Russia was completely silent in the course of the election, or within the quick aftermath. English-language web sites the U.S. authorities has linked to Russia have amplified tales suggesting voting issues or fraud.

Intelligence officers warned in August that Russia was engaged in a concerted effort to disparage Democrat Joe Biden, now the president-elect, and singled out a Ukrainian parliamentarian who has met with Trump’s private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani has been central to Trump’s election assaults, arguing a Pennsylvania court docket case on Wednesday and showing at a information convention the subsequent day that was rife with debunked claims, together with a fictitious story {that a} server internet hosting proof of voting irregularities was in Germany.

Trump on Friday retweeted a submit that criticized the information media for no more aggressively protecting the information convention. Extra broadly, he has helped drive the unfold of inaccurate info by a disinformation machine that depends on social media, conservative radio and tv shops and the amplification energy of his tens of millions of followers.

Zignal Labs, a San Francisco media intelligence agency, recognized and tracked tens of millions of social media posts about voting by mail within the months earlier than the election and located big spikes instantly following a number of of Trump’s tweets.

One instance: On July 30, Trump tweeted misinformation about mail ballots three separate occasions, together with calling the method inaccurate and fraudulent, stating with out proof that mail ballots can be an “simple means” for international adversaries to intervene and repeating a false distinction that absentee ballots are someway safer than mail ballots, when each are handled the identical.

Collectively, these three tweets have been reposted by different customers greater than 100,000 occasions and appreciated greater than 430,000 occasions — main the unfold of mail poll misinformation that day and serving to Trump dominate the web dialogue your entire week, in keeping with Zignal’s evaluation.

Lots of the false claims seen on Election Day originated with American voters themselves, whose posts about baseless allegations of voter fraud have been then reposted to tens of millions extra folks by Trump allies. That amplification permits remoted or deceptive claims to unfold extra broadly.

“You’re not speaking about grassroots exercise a lot anymore,” Stamos mentioned. “You’re speaking about top-down exercise that’s facilitated by the flexibility of those people to create these audiences.”

Researchers at Harvard College’s Berkman Klein Heart for Web & Society analyzed social media posts and information tales about voter fraud and decided that “Fox Information and Donald Trump’s personal marketing campaign have been way more influential in spreading false beliefs than Russian trolls or Fb clickbait artists.”

One of many researchers, Harvard Regulation College professor Yochai Benkler, mentioned that when his workforce checked out sudden will increase in on-line chatter about voter fraud, they virtually at all times adopted a remark from Trump or prime allies.

Justin Levitt, an election legislation professional at Loyola Regulation College, mentioned that, not like 4 years in the past, “now we don’t want a international navy unit to assault us. We’ve a chief govt doing precisely that” and dealing to unfold disinformation.

“It’s much more harmful this time,” he added, “than it was in 2016.”


Klepper reported from Windfall, Rhode Island. Related Press author Colleen Lengthy in Washington contributed to this report.

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