The Russians used Twitter bots and Donald Trump to manipulate Republican voters in the all-important swing states during the 2016 election. Former FBI agent Clint Watts testified in the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings held in Washington, D.C. He explained just how the Russians went to war with the U.S. via the Internet.
For instance Watts told NPR, Trump’s claim that the President Barack Obama “wiretapped” Trump Tower amplified the Russian message:
‘Every time a conspiracy is floated from the administration, it provides every outlet around the world, in fact, an opportunity to amplify that conspiracy and to add more manipulated truths or falsehoods onto it.’
NPR reported that Watts described exactly how the the Russian government harnessed armies of Twitter bots and trolls to roll out the fake news:
‘So that way whenever you’re trying to socially engineer them and convince them that the information is true, it’s much more simple because you see somebody and they look exactly like you, even down to the pictures.’
The committee is investigating the Russian government’s role in disrupting the U.S. elections. Senior Fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute Kelly McEvers interviewed Watts. He said that the Russian misinformation operation is still ongoing. Those who believe the Russian interference ended when Donald Trump won the election are simply wrong.
According to NPR, Watts continued:
‘If you went online today, you could see these accounts — either bots or actual personas somewhere — that are trying to connect with the administration. They might broadcast stories and then follow up with another tweet that tries to gain the president’s attention, or they’ll try and answer the tweets that the president puts out.’
As a cybersecurity expert, Watts told NPR that he has been monitoring the Russian government’s Russian hacking for over three years:
‘It’s a circular system. Sometimes the propaganda outlets themselves will put out false or manipulated stories. Other times, the president will go with a conspiracy.’
Watts said that the Russian government is conducting a “very diffuse network.” Russian Vladimir Putin is playing a complex three-tiered game of political chess. His network thrusts the various parts of the Russian intelligence machine into this real game of war “at different times and paces and rhythms.” Watts said:
‘Even amongst hackers between different parts of Russian intelligence and propagandists — all with general guidelines about what to pursue, but doing it at different times and paces and rhythms.’
Donald Trump blames the Democrats. He says that they are just sore losers, but Watts claims something much more sinister. He says this effort is “way bigger” than even the Islamic State’s using the Internet to recruit followers:
‘It’s way bigger. What was being done by nation-states in the social media influence landscape was so much more significant than the other things that were being talked about.’
The U.S. is in a very different kind of war.
Check out this video about the Russian strategy:
"Follow the trail of dead Russians tied to this investigation." —Former FBI Agent Clint Watts pic.twitter.com/hmp5NS33jf
— Lauren Werner (@LaurenWern) April 1, 2017
Featured Image: Getty Images/Win McNamee.