Trolls with a taste for mis­in­for­ma­tion roil Elec­tion Day

Hand­ful of Twit­ter ac­counts told peo­ple to vote to­day, not Tues­day

Marysville Appeal-Democrat - - NATION - Mcclatchy Wash­ing­ton Bu­reau (TNS)

WASH­ING­TON – Anti-demo­cratic voices on so­cial me­dia Tues­day sought to trick Amer­i­cans from vot­ing on Elec­tion Day, de­spite warn­ings from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment of ac­tive cam­paigns by Rus­sia and other na­tions to dis­rupt the elec­tions.

A hand­ful of Twit­ter ac­counts, some of them with more than 10,000 fol­low­ers, told the cit­i­zenry to vote to­day, not Tues­day, in a tac­tic to give bla­tantly false in­for­ma­tion.

“A re­minder for all my lib­eral friends, don’t for­get to vote to­mor­row Wed­nes­day Novem­ber 7th!” said one tweet.

An­other tweet came from an ac­count opened only days ago and di­rected at Tex­ans, who were de­cid­ing Tues­day whether to re-elect Sen. Ted Cruz, a Repub­li­can, or turn to­ward Demo­crat U.S. Rep. Beto O’rourke.

“Please go vote BETO TO­MOR­ROW, Wed Nov 7th,” said the ac­count reg­is­tered un­der the name @Ken­tgreenjr.

Whether those post­ing the dis­in­for­ma­tion were real peo­ple think­ing they were en­gaged only in par­ti­san mis­chief or ac­tive in­flu­ence cam­paigns by for­eign­ers seek­ing to weaken the U.S. elec­toral sys­tem could not be im­me­di­ately de­ter­mined.

But fed­eral au­thor­i­ties were clearly con­cerned about for­eign in­ter­fer­ence ef­forts.

Face­book late Mon­day said it had re­ceived a tip from fed­eral law en­force­ment and re­sponded by tak­ing down 85 In­sta­gram ac­counts and 30 Face­book ac­counts. The In­sta­gram ac­counts were mostly in English, while the Face­book ac­counts were in French or Rus­sian, the com­pany said.

The com­pany said the con­cern was that the ac­counts were linked in “co­or­di­nated in­au­then­tic be­hav­ior” and was in­ves­ti­gat­ing them in greater de­tail.

“Once we know more – in­clud­ing whether these ac­counts are linked to the Rus­sia-based In­ter­net Re­search Agency or other for­eign en­ti­ties – we will up­date this post,” the com­pany said.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors in Fe­bru­ary handed down in­dict­ments against 13 Rus­sians, many of whom worked at the In­ter­net Re­search Agency, a “troll farm,” or Rus­sian in­for­ma­tion war­fare op­er­a­tion de­signed to spread dis­trust among Amer­i­can vot­ers about the demo­cratic sys­tem it­self.

In a joint state­ment re­leased Mon­day night, the heads of the FBI, the Of­fice 6th dis­trict con­gres­sional in­cum­bent Karen Han­del waits in line to vote at the St. Mary’s Or­tho­dox Church in Roswell.

of the Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence, and the De­part­ments of Home­land Se­cu­rity and Jus­tice said they had not de­tected any suc­cess­ful ef­forts to dis­rupt the elec­tions but that peo­ple should be on guard.

“Amer­i­cans should be aware that for­eign ac­tors – and Rus­sia in par­tic­u­lar – con­tinue to try to in­flu­ence pub­lic sen­ti­ment and voter per­cep­tions through ac­tions in­tended to sow dis­cord,” the state­ment said. “They can do this by spread­ing false in­for­ma­tion about po­lit­i­cal pro­cesses and can­di­dates, ly­ing about their own in­ter­fer­ence ac­tiv­i­ties, dis­sem­i­nat­ing pro­pa­ganda on so­cial me­dia, and through other tac­tics.”

Com­mon Cause, the non­par­ti­san cit­i­zen’s lobby, which was keep­ing a tally of dis­in­for­ma­tion on so­cial me­dia, said it was un­able to tell im­me­di­ately the gen­e­sis of the mislead­ing Twit­ter posts.

Sev­eral ac­counts with big fol­low­ings, in­clud­ing @ wink(un­der­score)nod and @USSANEWS, were tweet­ing or retweet­ing sug­ges­tions that vot­ers should vote Wed­nes­day. Some of the tweets were tar­geted at Repub­li­cans.

“Break­ing news: In

or­der to ease the vot­ing process, all Repub­li­cans vote to­mor­row, Nov 7. Thank you! #Elec­tionday,” one tweet at­trib­uted to Rev. Le­viathan (@ Vanilla(un­der­score)gr­rilla) read.

Recorded Fu­ture, a cy­ber­se­cu­rity firm with head­quar­ters in Somerville, Mass., said it had de­tected that Rus­sian in­flu­ence op­er­a­tions had shifted strat­egy be­fore the U.S. midterm elec­tions, mov­ing away from “ver­i­fi­ably false in­for­ma­tion to “hy­per­par­ti­san per­spec­tives.”

“We have seen tac­tics shift over the past two

weeks to ap­pear more real and le­git­i­mate,” Priscilla Mo­ri­uchi, di­rec­tor of strate­gic threat de­vel­op­ment at the com­pany, wrote in a note.

Mo­ri­uchi said post­ings gen­er­ated through Rus­sian cam­paigns were now fo­cused on “ex­tremely bi­ased or opin­ion­ated con­tent.”

She said Rus­sian “trolls,” or provo­ca­teurs, were likely stok­ing sen­ti­ments on both ends of the U.S. po­lit­i­cal spec­trum “but that the net­work we cur­rently have iden­ti­fied is tar­get­ing the far right of Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal dis­course.”

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