How Russian trolls manipulated American politics

A new complaint ...

Posted: Oct 20, 2018 10:24 PM
Updated: Oct 20, 2018 10:24 PM

A new complaint unsealed Friday revealed extraordinary new details of how Russian trolls manipulate US politics and try to fool unsuspecting Americans on social media.

A Kremlin-friendly oligarch has allegedly continued pumping millions of dollars into the St. Petersburg troll farm that was responsible for interfering with the 2016 election.

Continents and regions

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Criminal law

Demographic groups

Donald Trump

Eastern Europe

Europe

Gays and lesbians

Government and public administration

Indictments

Investigations

Law and legal system

North America

Political Figures - US

Politics

Population and demographics

Robert Mueller

Russia

Russia meddling investigation

Sex and gender issues

Society

The Americas

United States

The Justice Department said the Russians "took extraordinary steps" to hide the fact that their controversial posts were coming from foreign meddlers. To make that happen, managers at the troll farm gave employees comprehensive instructions on how to pose as American activists, according to a court filing. Often these directions accompanied real article that the trolls would share, along with their own comments.

Here are highlights from the court filing:

They target specific politicians

Managers at the troll farm told their employees to attack specific American politicians.

"Brand McCain as an old geezer who has lost it and who long ago belonged in a home for the elderly," said one instruction from 2017. "Emphasize that John McCain's pathological hatred towards Donald Trump and towards all his initiatives crosses all reasonable borders and limits."

Directions about House Speaker Paul Ryan said trolls should describe him as a "complete and absolute nobody incapable of any decisiveness" and encourage Americans to vote him out of office by supporting his Democratic opponent Randy Bryce. (These instructions were allegedly written in August 2017, months before Ryan announced his intention to retire from Congress.)

Another set of instructions told the trolls to "expose Marco Rubio as a fake conservative who is a traitor to Republican values," referring to the Florida senator who ran against Trump in 2016.

They latched onto the Mueller probe

It's clear from the complaint that the Russian trolls latched onto the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller, which has dominated US politics for the past year.

The instructions said: "Special prosecutor Mueller is a puppet of the establishment. List scandals that took place when Mueller headed the FBI. Direct attention to the listed examples."

Other Kremlin-backed accounts on Twitter shared messages that encouraged Democrats and liberals to protest in the streets if Trump ever fired Mueller. These opposing messages highlight how the Russian trolls tried to inflame people on opposite sides of a major political issue.

They are media savvy

According to the filing, the Russians were familiar with the US media landscape, which includes mainstream news outlets, partisan websites, conspiracy websites, opinion-driven content and just about everything in between.

"If you write posts in a liberal group, ... you must not use Breitbart titles. On the contrary, if you write posts in a conservative group, do not use Washington Post or BuzzFeed's title," one troll farm manager wrote to his or her employees in October 2017, according to the complaint.

Posting articles from the right-wing outlet Breitbart in a Facebook group that proposes liberal causes could tip off unsuspecting Americans that the posts were not authentic or in character.

They are aware of intersectionality

The instructions show how the Russian trolls tried to manipulate the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. They also allegedly wanted to take advantage of racial divisions within LGBT audiences, and some of their instructions appear to lean on blatantly racist stereotypes.

"Colored LGBT are less sophisticated than white; therefore, complicated phrases and messages do not work," the instructions allegedly said. "Be careful dealing with racial content. Just like ordinary Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans, colored LGBT people are very sensitive towards #whiteprivilege and they react to posts and pictures that favor white people."

Some parts of the Russians' efforts to target LGBT voters have already been revealed, including a Facebook group called "LGBT United" that posted some ads that went viral in 2016.

They went after California

Several sets of instructions told the trolls to spread inflammatory messages about California.

"Characterize the position of Californian sanctuary cities along with the position of the entire California administration as absolutely and completely treacherous and disgusting," one manager allegedly wrote, referring to cities that refuse to crack down on undocumented immigrants.

Trolls were also told to emphasize the issue of requiring Americans to show ID before voting. One manager told an employee to suggest that there was significant voter fraud in California.

"Emphasize that all illegal voters must be kept away from the ballot boxes at distances 'beyond artillery firing range.' ... Remind that the majority of the 'blue states' have no VOTER IDs, which suggests that large-scale falsifications are bound to be happening there."

They were self-aware

A dozen Russians who allegedly worked at the troll farm, and their oligarch patron, were indicted in February. The indictment was the first brought by Mueller against Russians, and it revealed for the first time the inner workings of the troll farm, known as the Internet Research Agency,

Instead of shying away from the spotlight, some of the trolls seized on the moment to double down on their influence campaign.

One Kremlin-linked Twitter account chimed in on the day of the indictment: "Russians indicted today: 13. Illegal immigrants crossing Mexican border indicted today: 0. Anyway, I hope that all those Internet Research Agency f***ers will be sent to gitmo."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 38569

Reported Deaths: 1511
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12456787
Ramsey4911228
Dakota238291
Stearns237119
Anoka2241109
Nobles16696
Olmsted112915
Washington111440
Mower9522
Rice8447
Scott7344
Clay58738
Kandiyohi5731
Blue Earth4792
Wright4755
Todd4012
Carver3811
Sherburne3175
Lyon3162
Freeborn2920
Watonwan2340
Steele2311
Benton2173
St. Louis18015
Martin1695
Nicollet16912
Cottonwood1360
Goodhue1318
Winona12515
Crow Wing10612
Pine1050
Le Sueur1031
Chisago1001
Otter Tail951
McLeod920
Carlton870
Dodge870
Polk822
Chippewa791
Unassigned7837
Isanti730
Waseca680
Douglas650
Itasca6412
Murray640
Meeker611
Morrison591
Becker560
Faribault560
Jackson550
Sibley542
Pipestone522
Pennington510
Renville352
Mille Lacs342
Wabasha330
Brown312
Rock310
Beltrami300
Fillmore300
Yellow Medicine300
Houston260
Swift221
Wilkin213
Norman200
Redwood180
Cass162
Roseau160
Aitkin150
Big Stone150
Koochiching151
Wadena150
Kanabec141
Grant120
Marshall120
Lincoln100
Pope100
Mahnomen91
Clearwater80
Hubbard70
Lake60
Traverse60
Lac qui Parle40
Stevens40
Red Lake30
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 31670

Reported Deaths: 722
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6638179
Woodbury325244
Black Hawk230158
Buena Vista171411
Johnson13148
Linn129482
Dallas128029
Marshall104919
Scott81510
Story7793
Pottawattamie73612
Wapello70830
Dubuque70222
Crawford6772
Muscatine64344
Sioux4770
Tama46529
Wright3861
Louisa36213
Jasper32517
Plymouth3225
Warren2901
Dickinson2663
Washington2439
Webster2292
Hamilton1891
Cerro Gordo1821
Boone1481
Clay1340
Clarke1322
Allamakee1314
Mahaska11617
Shelby1140
Clinton1121
Poweshiek1068
Carroll991
Pocahontas971
Bremer946
Des Moines922
Franklin900
Emmet880
Henry863
Cedar841
Taylor790
Hardin770
Monona770
Cherokee751
Floyd732
Marion700
Benton691
Guthrie664
Jefferson640
Sac640
Osceola620
Jones610
Butler572
Buchanan551
Humboldt551
Hancock540
Harrison540
Lee542
Calhoun532
Iowa530
Delaware511
Fayette510
Monroe516
Madison482
Clayton443
Lyon440
Davis411
Palo Alto410
Mitchell390
Winneshiek390
Grundy380
Mills370
Kossuth350
Howard340
Jackson320
Lucas314
Greene300
Chickasaw290
Union290
Winnebago290
Ida240
Cass230
Van Buren220
Appanoose213
Keokuk211
Page210
Worth200
Unassigned170
Adair160
Audubon161
Ringgold160
Decatur120
Montgomery102
Wayne100
Adams80
Fremont70
Rochester
Few Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 72°
Mason City
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 73°
Albert Lea
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 73°
Austin
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 73°
Charles City
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 73°
Hot, sticky, and stormy
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events