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Hullabaloo


Thursday, September 28, 2017

 
A little something to add to the election postmortems

by digby


























Standard disclaimer: Hillary Clinton's popular vote winning campaign was the worst in the history of politics. Having said that, this would seem to be an important bit of information to consider when evaluating the effectiveness of various strategies in 2016:
Millions of tweets were flying furiously in the final days leading up to the 2016 US presidential election. And in closely fought battleground states that would prove key to Donald Trump’s victory, they were more likely than elsewhere in America to be spreading links to fake news and hyperpoliticized content from Russian sources and WikiLeaks, according to new research published Thursday by Oxford University.

Nationwide during this period, one polarizing story was typically shared on average for every one story produced by a professional news organization. However, fake news from Twitter reached higher concentrations than the national average in 27 states, 12 of which were swing states—including Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan, where Trump won by slim margins.

While it’s unclear what effect such content ultimately had on voters, the new study only deepens concerns about how the 2016 election may have been tweaked by nefarious forces on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. “Many people use these platforms to find news and information that shapes their political identities and voting behavior,” says Samantha Bradshaw, a lead researcher for Oxford’s Computational Propaganda Project, which has been tracking disinformation strategies around the world since 2014. “If bad actors can lower the quality of information, they are diminishing the quality of democracy.”

Efforts by Vladimir Putin’s regime were among the polarizing content captured in the new Oxford study. “We know the Russians have literally invested in social media,” Bradshaw told Mother Jones, referring to reports of Russian-bought Facebook ads as well as sophisticated training of Russian disinformation workers detailed in another recent study by the team. “Swing states would be the ones you would want to target.”

The dubious Twitter content also contained YouTube videos—including some produced by the Kremlin-controlled RT network, which were uploaded without any information identifying them as Russian-produced.
The dubious Twitter content in the new study also contained polarizing YouTube videos–including some produced by the Kremlin-controlled RT network, which were uploaded without any information identifying them as Russian-produced. All the YouTube videos have since been taken down, according to Bradshaw; it’s unclear whether the accounts were deleted by the users, or if YouTube removed the content.

The Oxford researchers captured 22 million tweets from November 1 to November 11 in 2016, and they have been scrutinizing the dataset to better understand the impact of disinformation on the US election. The team has also analyzed propaganda operations in more than two dozen countries, using a combination of reports from trusted media sources and think tanks, and cross-checking that information with experts on the ground. Their recent research has additional revelations about how disinformation works in the social-media age, including from Moscow.
I have been hearing people on TV saying that this was really an attempt to sow discord in our democracy. That may be true. But they only seemed to want to sow discord on the left. There is no evidence that they ever bought any ads or launched any campaigns for "Never Trump."


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