Study Says Russian Trolls Didn't Have Much Influence On Election; But It's More Complicated Than That

from the nothing-is-black-and-white dept

Since the election, I've been pretty firmly in the camp that believes that those who rushed to blame social media and things like (well documented) Russian attempts to interfere in the election via social media, have been vastly blown out of proportion. It's resulted in silly things like famous comedians suggesting that if Mark Zuckerberg allows Russians trolls to try to influence another election Zuck should go to jail. That's just silly. Much of it, to me, seems to be people who expected one outcome in the 2020 election casting blame towards something they could latch onto. Did Russian trolls try to use social media to influence the election? Absolutely. Did the results of the 2016 Presidential election surprise the politically savvy? Absolutely. Does that single correlation mean anything? There's been little evidence to suggest there is, even as many people assume their must be.

Given those priors, you might think that I'd be quick to jump on board a new study that suggests that my intuition is accurate. The study, entitled Russian Influence on US Twitter Users, by some Duke University researchers suggests little impact from Russian trolling operations.

There is widespread concern that Russia and other countries have launched social-media campaigns designed to increase political divisions in the United States. Though a growing number of studies analyze the strategy of such campaigns, it is not yet known how these efforts shaped the political attitudes and behaviors of Americans. We study this question using longitudinal data that describe the attitudes and online behaviors of 1,239 Republican and Democratic Twitter users from late 2017 merged with nonpublic data about the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) from Twitter. Using Bayesian regression tree models, we find no evidence that interaction with IRA accounts substantially impacted 6 distinctive measures of political attitudes and behaviors over a 1-mo period. We also find that interaction with IRA accounts were most common among respondents with strong ideological homophily within their Twitter network, high interest in politics, and high frequency of Twitter usage. Together, these findings suggest that Russian trolls might have failed to sow discord because they mostly interacted with those who were already highly polarized. We conclude by discussing several important limitations of our study—especially our inability to determine whether IRA accounts influenced the 2016 presidential election—as well as its implications for future research on social media influence campaigns, political polarization, and computational social science.

As Will Oremus summarizes at OneZero, the evidence mostly suggests that "the people most likely to interact with Russian trolls are the ones who were already the most entrenched in their partisan views." And thus, the people least likely to change their views in the first place.

In short, “the type of people who are most likely to interact with political influence campaigns are the least likely to be influenced by them,” said Christopher Bail, the paper’s lead author, who is a professor of sociology at Duke and the director of its Polarization Lab. That doesn’t mean the tweets had zero effect, but they failed to move the needle on any of six survey questions designed to measure different ways that one’s politics could change.

In a phone interview, Bail also highlighted two other reasons Russian influence campaigns might struggle to make a measurable impact. One is that their content makes up only a tiny fraction of most users’ feeds, if any. Another is that previous research has shown that political persuasion in general tends to be challenging, and the effects of political advertising hard to detect. “We know that most attempts to influence people’s politics fail,” Bail said. “Put in that light, why should we expect Russians to have influence if the most sophisticated American campaigns can’t move voters?”

The results of this study also support other research that found little direct impact from Russian online propaganda campaigns, which only seemed to generate real momentum once the propaganda/conspiracy theories appeared on Fox News. So, in those cases, there was influence, but only once the gullible suckers at Fox bit on them.

Still, I'm not sure that this study really actually shows that much. It's a useful addition to the literature, to be sure, but there are some pretty significant limitations to the study and its findings -- which, to their credit as good academic researchers, the authors of this study readily admit and highlight. Still, Renee DiResta, who also studies these things (currently at Stanford) had a good Twitter thread about this study, highlighting some of the challenges in determining the actual impact. In that thread, she notes that the trolling campaign wasn't always about trying to drive voters from one candidate to another, but often to do what it appears to have actually done, which was to entrench certain views (perhaps destructive views) and to divide people. And, even if everything in the study above is accurate and true, those two goals might have been accomplished anyway.

And, of course, it's difficult to measure "persuasion" anyway, and it's even more difficult to measure "impact" on any particular voter or set of voters of a single channel of messages, given just how many bits of information everyone processes every damn day. Josh Farkas, who also studies this stuff, highlighted another critique of this style of study, amusingly quoting from a book from the 1960s, Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes that similarly notes that most studies on propaganda show little direct result from any individual piece of propaganda. But that doesn't mean the propaganda wasn't useful:

Farkas quotes further, including: "You cannot measure with any precision the effects of a film because you cannot dissociate it from current newspaper articles and radio broadcasts on the same subject." Again, this is useful in thinking about this study and the framing of it -- along with all discussions regarding using the internet and internet trolls to try to "influence" elections.

The end result is that thinking this is an "internet" problem, or that it's an issue that is unique (or even brand new) to the internet would be wrong and not particularly helpful. And that's why, even if this study isn't particularly useful in showing what impact there was (or was not) from Russian trolls on the internet, at the very least, it serves as a useful reminder that if we want to tackle the challenges of disinformation, simplistic solutions that amount to little more than telling social media companies "you solve it!" will not do a damn thing.

Filed Under: elections, influence, propaganda, russian trolls, social media, trolls


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  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 3 Dec 2019 @ 12:16pm

    If you say, "Hillary would be worse than Trump!", it worked on you.

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    Zof (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 1:05pm

    The important thing

    is to continue to shame people pushing fake russian conspiracy theories at this point, when we know the Media made most of it up whole cloth.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 1:08pm

      Re: The important thing

      lol

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 1:49pm

      Yeah, everybody knows it was Ukraine in league with the Bidens, the Clintons, and the underground sex cult that was run out of a pizza joint that interfered in the 2016 elections and got Trump elected~. Even though there’s no evidence that proves this was the case, and the Clintons working to undermine themselves makes no fucking sense at all, you’d have to be a brain dead imbecile liberal commie bastard to believe none of them had anything to do with it~.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 2:08pm

      The important thing is to be the Dunning-Kruger you want to see

      The sad thing bro, is that you are a terrible liar. With as many times as you’ve done it you’d think, at some point, you’d get better at it.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 2:43pm

      Re:

      You're literally wrong, but would you care to explain then why the US government was investigating Russian interference BEFORE the media started running the stories? Or would you care to explain this official government statement accusing Russia of trying to interfere in the election?

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    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 4:07am

      Re: The important thing

      "...is to continue to shame people pushing fake russian conspiracy theories at this point, when we know the Media made most of it up whole cloth."

      Nope.

      That a vast amount of posters astroturfed for Trump is indisputable. That a whole lot of said posters were, in fact, originating from russian IP numbers is also a fact.

      And no wonder. Putin would MUCH rather deal with a Trump (a supremely self-serving narcissist) than with a Hillary (self-serving politician who at least has to look and act the part).

      I only wonder why everyone keeps calling it a "conspiracy". It can't be unless Trump walked over to Putin and asked for a few thousand of his stooges to start putting in a good word for him with the specific intent to wreck electionary procedure.

      But it DOES highlight a fact that should scare every american senseless - that voter apathy is at such a low in the states that rumor and hearsay is enough in itself to make or break a candidate because not enough americans have enough giveashit to do an hour's worth of fact-checking over the whole election.

      Who gets to be president in the US seems to boil down to the same process as when a shady salesman cons you into buying a vacuum cleaner by way of eddie murphy-style fast talk.

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      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 5:29am

        Re: Re: The important thing

        "It can't be unless Trump walked over to Putin and asked for a few thousand of his stooges to start putting in a good word for him with the specific intent to wreck electionary procedure."

        Trump wouldn't have to personally have done that for it to be a conspiracy, and given his history with Russian interests it probably wasn't him who suggested it in the first place.

        "rumor and hearsay is enough in itself to make or break a candidate"

        Campaigns have been sunk by awkwardly recorded screams, pictures on tanks that people thought looked silly and smear campaigns against the candidate's war record. Why is it a stretch to understand that the attacks don't have to be based in truth, so long as some people are dumb enough to believe them without evidence?

        "Who gets to be president in the US seems to boil down to the same process as when a shady salesman cons you into buying a vacuum cleaner by way of eddie murphy-style fast talk."

        I'm glad you caught up. I remember seeing movies from the 80s making exactly the same observation, it's just got much more obvious since then.

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        • icon
          nasch (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 6:47am

          Re: Re: Re: The important thing

          Campaigns have been sunk by awkwardly recorded screams

          Dean was going down already by that point.

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          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 7:25am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The important thing

            True, but it's notable how that finalised things rather quickly. It's just one of the first examples of something that came to mind where a candidate has done something that's not really wrong, but had themselves shot down over it regardless.

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        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 5 Dec 2019 @ 6:06am

          Re: Re: Re: The important thing

          "Trump wouldn't have to personally have done that for it to be a conspiracy, and given his history with Russian interests it probably wasn't him who suggested it in the first place."

          It's true enough that it's far more likely to be Putin just telling the fifth directorate to get the troll farms to work mudslinging Hillary...
          ...but if that's the case then there's actually no prosecutable crime to find to begin with. I doubt there's a law against foreigners posting dumb shit on a US political forum.

          And if any of trump's rump tonguers asked some russian agent about the option of having a gang of trolls dragging the opposition through the mud...well, it's shady as all fuck and as dishonest as you'd expect from a trump toad, but question is how criminal it is.

          "Why is it a stretch to understand that the attacks don't have to be based in truth, so long as some people are dumb enough to believe them without evidence?"

          Some people? Not a stretch. I fully expect the tribe of the Lackwit totem to be out in force on any occasion where they can raise their voice or check their ballot. I should have repeated my previous statements here - that with 50% of voters abstaining and most of the rest being unshakably set in their position, that comparably small tribe of idiots gain disproportionate influence as a guaranteed scale-tipper.

          One of the cautions I received in my european basic education was that Hitler was elected by a mere 12% or adherents in total turning out to become 33% of the total sum of the actual voters - simply because most of Germany didn't vote and as a result ended up with the Chancellor of Hell. Voter apathy is one of those things any sane and responsible government should counteract by any and all means necessary.

          Here in sweden when voter percentage dropped to 80,1% in 2002 it was considered a catastrophe, usuall turnout hovering around 90-95%. The idea that a citizenry which cares so little about their governing body that 50% choose not to give a toss...exists in a nation NOT currently plagued by civil strife or heavy recession...THAT is a stretch, to me.

          "I'm glad you caught up. I remember seeing movies from the 80s making exactly the same observation, it's just got much more obvious since then."

          US voter turnout started spiraling downwards after 1976, if statistics are to be believed and ever since that time the age of the average voter has increased - meaning that it started going downhill with the generation born in the 60's.

          I'm fairly sure i recall seeing movies from the 50's and 60's where elections were held in somewhat higher esteem...

          Not sure if it's a coincidence but that's right after the Nixon/Ford period when Watergate had become a byword in US politics.

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          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 5 Dec 2019 @ 6:30am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The important thing

            "but if that's the case then there's actually no prosecutable crime to find to begin with"

            There is if they asked for Trump's go ahead before they started. Conspiracy still applies if you didn't originate the idea. Same as if one of Trump's lackeys did it - sure, that gives him some plausible deniability if needed, but it doesn't mean there wasn't a conspiracy.

            "The idea that a citizenry which cares so little about their governing body that 50% choose not to give a toss...exists in a nation NOT currently plagued by civil strife or heavy recession...THAT is a stretch, to me."

            Yet, voter turnout in the 2016 US General Election was just over 60%. I'm not sure what your point here is, but it's well documented that a lot of Americans are apathetic about their 2 party system, and people in "safe" districts often don't bother.

            "I'm fairly sure i recall seeing movies from the 50's and 60's where elections were held in somewhat higher esteem"

            Well, yes and no. While plenty of people were rather naively trusting about the whole process before JFK, Watergate and Vietnam, there was plenty of cynical work. 1962's The Manchurian Candidate comes to mind, and even though 1939's Mr Smith Goes To Washington is famous for James Stewart's wide-eyed innocent, the corruption in the government he is trying to compete with is very apparent.

            The overall attitude in society may have been different, but the cynicism has been there for a long time.

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            • icon
              Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 6 Dec 2019 @ 6:44am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The important thing

              "Conspiracy still applies if you didn't originate the idea. Same as if one of Trump's lackeys did it - sure, that gives him some plausible deniability if needed, but it doesn't mean there wasn't a conspiracy."

              The problem is proving it, i guess.
              I can't believe Trump is actually smarter than Nixon in this regard.

              "I'm not sure what your point here is..."

              Dilution of democracy. The US is younger and used to be far more vibrant in its practice of democratic values than most other democracies. Now it ranks at 31 out of 35 when it comes to determining the ranking voter participation and Michael Moore can can have a fikus tree winning the popular congressional vote.

              How the hell has this happened in the "land of opportunity" when thousand-year old european geriatrics are still moving their citizenry to the ballots?

              I know the answer. I just find it unbelievable.

              "Well, yes and no. While plenty of people were rather naively trusting about the whole process before JFK, Watergate and Vietnam, there was plenty of cynical work. 1962's The Manchurian Candidate comes to mind, and even though 1939's Mr Smith Goes To Washington is famous for James Stewart's wide-eyed innocent, the corruption in the government he is trying to compete with is very apparent."

              Ambrose Bierce (1881) is still the go-to for me when it comes to looking at cynical views of ages past.

              That said voter apathy is more than cynicism. If you've got polls stating that voter confidence in the party leaderships is so low it's clear they wouldn't be trusted to pour water out of a boot at the same time that you've got a 95% ballot attendance then that's just healthy.

              It's more than that. Americans appear to have lost faith in the democratic process itself. To me it's pretty scary if in a western nation a popular consensus appears to exist that the "choice" at election is about on par with that offered in China or the old Soviet Union.

              And that's a new thing which I' don't believe was that bad before the 70's in the US.

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  • icon
    CharlesGrossman (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 1:10pm

    "Well Documented Attempts to Influence the Election"

    Here's what's well-documented: people in Russia posted fake and misleading online information which attracted attention and interest. What isn't well-documented: this was directed by the Russian government; this was intended to influence the election. What it looks like to me: commercial Russian clickfarms took advantage of most interesting and controversial topics to make plenty of money, just like clickfarms do all the time with whatever topics are hot.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 1:16pm

      Re: "Well Documented Attempts to Influence the Election&quo

      Ironically, of course, your post is full of fake and misleading information.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 2:05pm

        Re: fake and misleading information

        Americans are always flooded with "fake and misleading information" ... from many normal homegrown sources -- from their government officials, campaign politicians, the corporate news media, religious organizations, the education establishments, blogs, podcasts, books, TV/radio, etc.

        Influencing public opinion and behavior via spin & disinformation is a way of life in America -- finding it is not difficult at all.

        The real problem is finding TRUTH in today's vast domestic communication flow.

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    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 1:55pm

      Here's what's well-documented: people in Russia posted fake and misleading online information which attracted attention and interest. What isn't well-documented: this was directed by the Russian government; this was intended to influence the election.

      Consider the following: The disinformation campaigns were intended to screw with the 2016 elections, with at least some intent to help elect Trump. Putin benefits from a divided United States more than he benefits from a United States that is…er, united in its interests and causes. Putin also benefits from Donald Trump being president, considering how a lot of what Trump does seems to somehow benefit Putin and Russia.

      Conclusion: Putin/the Russian government may have had absolutely nothing to do with the disinformation campaigns that helped get Trump elected. But the probability of that assertion being a fact is lower than a limbo pole even Hermes Conrad can’t get under.

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      • identicon
        David, 3 Dec 2019 @ 4:56pm

        Re:

        Consider the following: The disinformation campaigns were intended to screw with the 2016 elections, with at least some intent to help elect Trump.

        Frankly, Fox "News" did a lot more in that direction. Now the main Fox mission certainly would have been to push relentless whichever Republican candidate would have won the primaries.

        So the real piece of outside work for getting a divisive candidate like Trump elected, given the large number of fixed-party voters, would have been letting Trump win the primaries. And, that one's tricky, getting the Democrats to have a candidate win that is best suited for a smear campaign after the primaries.

        The presidential election itself, in contrast, is something where ingrained voters and Fox et al will carry the brunt of the work.

        So for me interference with the primaries would seem a more significant target here. And it's a bonus that nobody is looking too closely there.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 4:58pm

        Re:

        Or...it's just personal: payback for Clinton #1's equally-bungling efforts to support Putin's opposition back in the day.

        I find no need to hypothesize a grand malicious conspiracy, when there's enough stupidity going around to ... keep the oversupply of malice going around from getting organized.

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      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 2:07am

        Re:

        "The disinformation campaigns were intended to screw with the 2016 elections, with at least some intent to help elect Trump"

        Some of it was. Some of it was just people doing it for fun or profit, and the most gullible people making them the most money just happened to be Trumpers.

        https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/11/23/503146770/npr-finds-the-head-of- a-covert-fake-news-operation-in-the-suburbs

        It's pretty clear that some of it was Russian-led, but it's equally clear than it wasn't 100% of it.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 1:17pm

    If you think people saw a few posts on Facebook and, thinking Trump is literally Hitler, decided to change their votes and vote for him; well, you're a fool.

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    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 1:59pm

      Liberals and conservatives — i.e., the people who tend to vote along party lines — generally had their minds made up before the election. The “swing voters” were the people toward whom the disinformation campaigns were aimed.

      Then again, let’s not act like there weren’t nominally left-leaning voters who voted for Trump out of spite for Clinton. Regret keeps a fair number of them from publicly owning their vote, of course. But they’re out there, and they’ll have to live with that mistake for the rest of their lives.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 2:13pm

        Re: mistakes-of-other-voters

        ... many of us have been living with the 'mistakes-of-other-voters' for our entire lives !

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 2:10pm

      Re:

      Hey bro. Your strawman is so shaky it’s gonna fall apart the second someone gives it a stern look.

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    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 4:21am

      Re:

      "If you think people saw a few posts on Facebook and, thinking Trump is literally Hitler, decided to change their votes and vote for him; well, you're a fool."

      Only about 50% of all americans even bother to vote. Out of those who do about 30% will always vote republican, even if the candidates name is Hitler Babykiller the III:rd, He Who Kills Puppies.
      Another 30% will vote democrat even if the candidate calls himself Ivan Russianstoogeovitch, Traitor Born.

      And then there are the remaining 20%. The swing voters. A herd of cats with no common understanding of what a desirable policy would actually look like, most of whom vote because they feel they have to but are rightfully so disgusted with either side of the aisle they will almost always vote for the least objectionable choice.

      There's a reason that mudslinging works so well. It's far easier to convince the swing voters the opposition is a whole lot worse than it is to present yourself and your chosen issues in a way which will cater to the whole of that aforementioned herd of cats.

      If you can convince a mere one in ten of those swing voters that the opposition to your chosen candidate is the worse choice, your candidate wins.

      And THAT is why so many americans logically think a few thousand russian trolls posting shit about Hillary on facebook COULD have won Trump the election. I mean, they're not wrong.

      The question remains whether whatever influence the russian trolls exercised was enough to bag Trump the election. And THAT is actually dubious given that Trump managed to mobilize a part of the traditional non-voters on his behalf, by being folksy, upsetting, and appearing to be nonpolitical while at the same time either promising impossibilities or not saying a damn thing.
      The swing voters might not, in the 2016 election, have been the deciding votes.

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      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 5:34am

        Re: Re:

        "And THAT is why so many americans logically think a few thousand russian trolls posting shit about Hillary on facebook COULD have won Trump the election. I mean, they're not wrong."

        I think the reason has more to do with the fact that he lost the popular vote by over 3 million, yet managed to win the electoral college with a few thousand extra in key areas.

        They didn't really have to swing anyone's vote, they just had to convince people who wouldn't normally bother that it was imperative to do so. Their vote then counted many times more than those of people in more populated areas of the country.

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        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 5 Dec 2019 @ 6:16am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "They didn't really have to swing anyone's vote, they just had to convince people who wouldn't normally bother that it was imperative to do so."

          Yeah, mea maxima culpa...gerrymandering is practiced by just about every democracy in the world, but nowhere in as extreme a fashion as the US where the district borders on the map by now often resemble napkin scribbles by Salvador Dali.

          The point still stands though...except that my estimate was way overblown. In reality all the man had to do was get a few thousand redneck misogynists off their bums to bag the election...

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          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 5 Dec 2019 @ 6:54am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Which is all I'm trying to say, really. People pick some really dumb reasons to vote or not to vote for someone. It would be crazy to suggest that millions would be swayed by random Facebook comments. But, it's not hard to imagine that a few thousand otherwise politically inactive people could be fooled into action. Add gerrymandering and the electoral college to ensure those dumbasses have as much voting power as possible, and it's a very real likelihood.

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            • icon
              Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 6 Dec 2019 @ 6:46am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "But, it's not hard to imagine that a few thousand otherwise politically inactive people could be fooled into action. Add gerrymandering and the electoral college to ensure those dumbasses have as much voting power as possible, and it's a very real likelihood."

              I read that. Nodded.

              Then I read it again when reality hit me.
              I can't believe this is the point we're at.

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      • icon
        Wyrm (profile), 6 Dec 2019 @ 9:43am

        Re: Re:

        First, your math is all kinds of wrong... But we get the idea.

        Second, I agree that there are far too many partisan voters who will not vote for an opposition candidate ever, although you might have some success in stopping them from voting (republicans have several tools in the bag, and democrats are particularly easier to convince since many actually care enough not to vote for a criminal).

        The problem is that there have been many factors in Trump's favor, so it's going to be super-tough to weigh them appropriately.
        Russian troll farms, Clinton's poor strategy choices, Clinton's known corporate bias, Trump's image of successful businessman (though a complete sham), Comey's public announcement of investigation on Clinton, Obama's choice not to reveal Russian efforts... and so much more that I can't just list it all.

        Each definitely had some influence. How much? Who cares at this point.
        Was there "collusion" between Trump and Putin? Who cares. We have a lot more to impeach Trump on that this doesn't matter and can't even be proven conclusively at this point. (Though there is some body of pretty convincing evidence in that direction.)

        What's important now is looking forward. Namely preparing for two events:

        • Trump's potential impeachment.
        • The 2020 election.
          If you keep on harping on past subjects that you can't prove strongly enough, you're just going to gift the election to Republicans once more.
          For the impeachment, focus on what we have proof on, sometimes kindly provided by Trump himself. For the election, focus on positive communication about your side. Smear campaigns seem to work much better in favor of republicans for some reason. I won't say what I think this means about republicans, but I'll think it very loudly.

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        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 7 Dec 2019 @ 4:09am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Each definitely had some influence. How much? Who cares at this point"

          Well, that attitude is certainly one way to ensure that any such influence also happens in the next election. If nobody cares, then nothing gets fixed.

          "Was there "collusion" between Trump and Putin? Who cares"

          You don't care that a foreign leader - of a country that not so long ago was a mortal enemy of the US - may have had a hand in installing a president who lost the popular vote by over 3 million votes?

          "We have a lot more to impeach Trump on"

          Why do you think investigation of this stuff has to be about impeaching Trump, and not about understanding how badly your electoral system has been compromised before the next one takes place?

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        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 11 Dec 2019 @ 2:20am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "First, your math is all kinds of wrong... But we get the idea."

          I don't think it is that off. Roughly 50% is the voter turnout in the US, and the remainder has been noted down as 30/30/20 on average being the proportion of party1/party2/swing.

          As PaulIT illustrated my main miss was in the way the electoral college and gerrymandering muck up the popular vote outcome anyway.

          "Each definitely had some influence. How much? Who cares at this point. Was there "collusion" between Trump and Putin? Who cares. We have a lot more to impeach Trump on that this doesn't matter and can't even be proven conclusively at this point."

          ...that's like saying since you've got aspirin to cure the pain who cares about the cancer.

          I think the point here is that because american citizenry casually and repetitively go down the road of not really caring beyond the end result they always end up having to do the exact same thing next time around. Both the US and the EU is suffering a crisis in the entire democratic process as a whole and although I concur that it's important to have Trump sacked - even if just for the fact that he's lying to a point where Bill's fibs about not inhaling and not boffing his intern look quite tame - the real problem the US faces is the same the EU does.

          That the entire mechanism of the electionary processes fail completely to produce any democracy.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Koby (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 3:55pm

    Free Speech is the real target

    Similar to how the 9/11 attackers committed murder and inflicted property damage onto the U.S., but then the U.S. response was to take away the rights of U.S. citizens and thereby inflict some REAL harm to society in the name of preventing "terrorism"; the real purpose of the Russian Internet Troll campaign of 2016 wasn't to help a particular candidate. The political class lost a few votes, so in response the tightwads demand that Free Speech rights of all U.S. citizens be taken away. We need to prevent citizens from "influence". How dare you think for yourself, instead of government-approved message?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 4:22pm

    Keep in mind, the whole Russia thing overall was complete B.S. Obama was also still president at the time when this whole Russia B.S. was supposedly going on. Hillary had far more do with Russia if anything.

    Why worry about Russia, when in fact we have companies like GOOGLE doing far more harm and doing it currently by blocking conservative sites and people while letting pretty much anything go on the left. Talking about outright BIAS. not to mention the Google meeting outright saying they can't let Trump win again. This is what I care far more about. These leftist companies and their biases.

    It used to be Mainstream Media had a lock on it all, then came Fox News to get the other side. The Internet blew the doors open. But here we go with these company's that greatly control what we see on the Internet trying to control what we see on the Internet. leftist only views. No thanks.

    https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/09/13/breitbart_posts_leaked_video_of_google_le adership_reacting_to_2016_election.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    Personanongrata, 3 Dec 2019 @ 5:53pm

    The Mighty Wurlitzer Grinds On*

    Study Says Russian Trolls Didn't Have Much Influence On Election; But It's More Complicated Than That

    No it really is not that Complicated.

    The result of the 2016 US presidential election was directly predicated upon 63 million Americans for better/worse casting their vote for Donald J Trump.

    I've been pretty firmly in the camp that believes that those who rushed to blame social media and things like (well documented) Russian attempts to interfere in the election via social media, have been vastly blown out of proportion.

    Where is the evidence of the well documented Russian attempts to interfere in the election via social media?

    You use circular references that link back to other 'reports' here at techdirt, a book review authored by clearly biased persons sowing disinformation, specious claims made at wikipedia (ie the fact SDI was some fabulous well meaning program - not a boondoggle that cost the US hundreds of billions dollars - a product of Soviet disinformation), etc.

    One favorite circular reference is continuing to plumb the depths of the same completely de-bunked and bone dry well known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA).

    Italicized/bold text was excerpted from consortiumnews.com a report titled:

    33 Trillion More Reasons Why The New York Times Gets it Wrong on Russia-gate

    Even more damning evidence has come to light undermining The New York Times‘ assertion in September that Russia used social media to steal the 2016 election for Donald Trump.

    The newspaper failed to tell their readers that Facebook account holders in the United States had been “served” 33 trillion Facebook posts during that same period — 413 million times more than the 80,000 posts from the Russian company.

    To put the 33 trillion figure over two years in perspective, the 80,000 Russian-origin Facebook posts represented just .0000000024 of total Facebook content in that time.

    https://consortiumnews.com/2018/11/02/33-trillion-more-reasons-why-the-new-york-times-gets-it- wrong-on-russia-gate/

    Italicized/bold text was excerpted from cia.gov a report titled:

    *The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America

    Once upon a time, the Central Intelligence Agency ran a world-wide covert action campaign to counter such nonsense in societies in which communism might take hold. Almost every CIA station had case officers dedicated to working with labor unions, intellectuals, youth and student organizations, journalists, veterans, women’s groups, and more. The Agency dealt directly with foreign representatives of these groups, but it also subsidized their activities indirectly by laundering funds through allied organizations based in the United States. In short, the Agency’s covert political action depended on the anti-communist zeal of private American citizens, only a few of whom knew that the overseas works of their ostensibly independent organizations were financed by the CIA until the campaign’s cover was disastrously blown in 1967.

    Why is this important? Because scholars and graduate students will someday follow Wilford’s lead. His judicious approach should set the standard for their studies. Second, it matters because some quarters inside and outside government argue today that America needs to replicate the successes of the CIA’s covert political action campaign for the Global War on Terror. The Mighty Wurlitzer might not convince them that that’s a bad idea, but Wilford’s observations should give them pause to consider the risks and unintended consequences of projects that they are unlikely to be be able to control completely.

    https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-st udies/studies/vol52no2/intelligence-in-recent-public-literature-1.html

    Any claims that CIA is an innocuous liberty defending agency is completely bogus.

    Italicized/bold text was excerpted from douglasvalentine.com a book review titled:

    The CIA as Organized Crime

    Unfortunately, the current "stab-in-the-back" generation of military officers, government officials and reporters was forged on the anvil of defeat in Vietnam. This generation, which staffs the burgeoning number of Phoenix-style committees in the public and private sectors, carries the burden of restoring America's reputation for invincibility.

    This ruling class within the National Security Establishment, represented most perfectly by Hillary Clinton, knows that its enemies, foreign and domestic, must be suppressed ideologically as well as militarily. Thus they embraced the Phoenix concept of employing implicit and explicit terror to control, organize and pacify societies.

    As I'll explain in greater detail in this book, Phoenix fulfilled its destiny in the wake of 9/11 and became the template for policing the empire and fighting its eternal War on Terror. So successful were Phoenix operations in overthowing the Ba'athist party regime in Iraq that David Kilcullen, one of the US government's top terrorism advisors in 2004, called for a "global Phoenix program."

    The threat of a global Phoenix program is that it will become fully activated in the United States. If the CIA and military are successful at politically and psychologically neutralizing suspected terrorists, what is to stop them applying the full systematic extent of Phoenix-style operations to include political dissidents, immigrants and despised minorities in America, just as they did in Vietnam?

    Any domestic Phoenix-sytle organization or operation depends on double-speak and deniability, as well as official secrecy and media self-censorship. The overarching need for total control of information requires media complicity. This was one of the great lesson defeat in Vietnam taught our leaders. The highly indoctrinated and well rewarded managers who run government will never again allow the public to see the carnage they inflict upon foreign civilians. Americans never will see the mutilated Iraqi, Afghani, Libyan and Syrian children killed by marauding US forces and their cluster bombs.

    On the other hand, falsified portrayals of CIA kidnappings, torture, and assassinations are glorified on TV and in movies. Telling the proper story is absolutely essential. Thanks to media complicity, Phoenix has already become the template for providing internal political security for America's leaders. The process began immediately after 9/11 with the repressive Patriot Act and a series of Presidential executive ordered that have since legalized the administrative detention and murder of American
    citizens said to be involves in terrorism. - like Kamal Derwish, killed drone strike in 2002m and cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, killed by CIA drone strikes in 2009.

    http://www.douglasvalentine.com/the_cia_as_organized_crime_.htm

    Either techdirt is staffed by a gaggle of useful idiots (doubtful) or techdirt is in on the game (disgraceful).

    Again it is not Complicated 63 million Americans voted Trump in 2016 and all the whining/disinformation will never change that fact.

    Your bias is clearly showing.

    pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 7:55pm

      63 million Americans voted Trump in 2016

      And about 3 million more voted for Clinton.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 9:17pm

        Re:

        At least you didn't call them Americans, touche.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 4:43am

          Oh, that’s funny, trying to say without evidence that foreigners voted in an American election~.

          Also: Didn’t Trump put together a commission on voter fraud to explore those kinds of charges — a commission that later disbanded after finding no evidence of voter fraud at any scale? 🤔

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 11:30pm

        Re:

        Yeah, citing mere body numbers is a bad idea as it invites in those that now that it served its purpose in 2012 want to replace the republic of the electoral college with mob rule, because giving the city of New York alone more voting power than the states of Idaho, Iowa, Montana, and Nebraska together sounds like a good idea as long as it means that reality disconnected urbanites enamoured with colourful rants and promises of free shit will vote blue.
        Citing the fact that Trump won roughly 4/5th of all counties, a overwhelming majority, makes more sense.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 4:46am

          Trump won roughly 4/5th of all counties

          And how big was the total population of those counties compared to the total for the counties he lost? 🤔

          Also: If you think people in Idaho, Iowa, Montana, and Nebraska don’t make use of government-funded programs that you would call “free shit” (e.g., SNAP/food stamps), perhaps you should check your own connection with reality, champ.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 6:59am

          Re: Re:

          giving the city of New York alone more voting power than the states of Idaho, Iowa, Montana, and Nebraska together

          Why should people in NYC have their voting power diluted just because they live closer together than other people?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            David, 4 Dec 2019 @ 5:30pm

            Re: Re: Re:

            Because they are living closer together for a reason: they own less of the land so it's only fair that they get to control less of the land.

            That's the way the Founding Fathers wanted it. Of course they didn't plan on slaves, women, and other riffraff starting to vote either, so the concept has already been watered down since its conception.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 9:04am

          Re: Re:

          reality disconnected urbanites

          That's a pretty funny comment given how many rural areas are under served by what we now call "basic Internet access."

          Wouldn't those simple minded hicks be more reality disconnected given the reality that they are, for the most part, physically disconnected?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 10 Dec 2019 @ 6:22am

            Re: Re: Re:

            Not necessarily - I would argue that places like Infowars and Stormfront tend to produce more people that are disconnected from reality...and if you didn't have an Internet connection you would find it pretty hard to visit those websites.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 8:09pm

      Re: Tldr

      “Your bias is clearly showing.”

      Thanks for summing up all that projection in one sentence bro.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2019 @ 8:09pm

      Re: The Mighty Wurlitzer Grinds On*

      This is a whole wall of nonsense predicated on the fact that all 63 million voters live inside a bubble with no outside information informing their vote.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    HegemonicDistortion (profile), 3 Dec 2019 @ 8:01pm

    Renee DiResta

    Regarding Renee DiResta, it should be noted that she is also the Director of Research of New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company that may not only have a financial interest in the question, but which also conducted an "experiment" in which they created fake Russian trollbots to follow a Republican senate candidate and then smeared him for those faked associations. Oddly, they declared that their "experiment" had no effect on the outcome of that race.

    Here's the story:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/19/us/alabama-senate-roy-jones-russia.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 12:01am

    Lol, muh Russia idiots still trying to boost their signal, fool themselves and others.

    I know the people that were blamed for this, had nothing to do with Russia.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 12:07am

    The claim that the Russians' propaganda efforts were ineffective appears to belied by their continuing of such efforts even today (as the multiple examples even in this very thread demonstrate).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Dec 2019 @ 9:12pm

    Allahu Akbar!
    The U.S. must take Monroe Doctrine now.
    The U.S. must withdraw American Forces from all Foreign Countries now.
    Stop America's doing its all wars now!
    The U.S. must return to the gold standard now!
    The U.S. must adopt the gold standard again now!
    The U.S. must decrease its military-budget to 100-billion-dollar per year now.
    Or, the U.S. must decrease its military-budget to 1% of its GDP now.

    I love American99% and the U.S.

    Germany and Japan must loosen Germany's and Japan's monetary policies now!
    Germany and Japan must stimulate Germany's and Japan's domestic demands now!
    Japan and Germany must issue a lot of construction bond now!
    Japan and Germany must reduce Germany's and Japan's taxes now!
    The U.S. must tighten its monetary policy now!
    As a result, Dollar value will rise!
    The U.S. will have trade surplus!

    Japan and Germany are evil empires.
    Islamists' true enemies are Japan, Germany, FRB, Top1%, Wall Street, American Military Industry and DOD!
    Japan is the country which has been promoting Globalization!!!
    Allahu Akbar!

    American Revolutionary War!
    We American 99% have the 2nd amendment!
    American Revolutionary War!

    Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and Japanese-bureaucrats are the main largest promoters of FTA.
    Wall-Street, American-top1%, American-Military-Industry are colluding with Japan and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

    US DOD, Japan and Germany are enemies of American99%.
    US DOD, Japan and Germany are enemies of mankind.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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