The report also described how it was responsible for “radicalizing Democrats with a Russian bot scandal.”
(Lionel Parrott, Liberty Headlines) In last year’s Senate race in Alabama, Democratic operatives created fake Russian bots on Facebook and Twitter in an effort to link the Kremlin to Republicans, according to a story from The New York Times.
The Times dubbed the operation an “experiment” that sought to gain understanding about similar, authentic methods used during the 2016 presidential election and claimed the project was likely too small to have impacted the race.
Doug Jones won that contest by a less than 2 percent margin, after his opponent, Roy Moore, was accused of unwanted advances on a number of young women many decades ago.
The Russian bot project had what some would consider a small budget of only $100,000 and came to light after the Times obtained an internal report describing the effort.
“We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet,” it read. The report also described how it was responsible for “radicalizing Democrats with a Russian bot scandal.”
It seems that Democratic tech experts carried out the plan. One of them, Jonathon Morgan, is chief executive of New Knowledge, a cybersecurity firm that documented Russia’s efforts in the 2016 election. Morgan apparently found the Russian interference inspiring.
The internal report says that researchers “experimented with many of the tactics now understood to have influenced the 2016 elections.”
In a statement, Morgan denied the project was an attempt to affect the election results in Alabama.
“My involvement in the project described in the New York Times was as a cyber-security researcher and expert with the intention to better understand and report on the tactics and effects of social media disinformation,” he protested. “I did not participate in any campaign to influence the public and any characterization to the contrary misrepresents the research goals, methods and outcome of the project.”
Of course, Morgan and his team of researchers got significant help. His project was funded by liberal billionaire and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, who gave $100,000 to the effort. Hoffman is one of Silicon Valley’s biggest donors to the Democratic Party (though he has in the past shown a penchant for supporting fake Republicans).
The researchers created thousands of fake Russian bot accounts on Twitter that “followed” Moore on the platform, attracting the attention of media outlets across the country and resulting in a false narrative that Russia was trying to rig the election for the Republican.
In addition to the Russian bot fakery, Morgan’s team also created a generic Facebook page that depicted conservative Alabamians as dissatisfied with the Moore candidacy and supported the efforts of a write-in candidate. The Facebook page disappeared the day after the election.
On Thursday, the beneficiary of these efforts, Doug Jones, said he was outraged by the report and wants a federal investigation.
“I’d like to see the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department look at this to see if there were any laws being violated and, if there were, prosecute those responsible,” he said. “These authorities need to use this example right now to start setting the course for the future to let people know that this is not acceptable in the United States of America.”
Jones, despite representing a conservative state, has racked up a consistently liberal voting record. He is the first Democrat to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama since 1992.