Russian trolls relying on Trump quotes for disinformation campaigns, saving them from doing it themselves
- Russia's attempts to influence the election are mostly just amplifying President Donald Trump's misleading statements, according to a new report from The New York Times.
- Foreign Policy Research Institute fellow and former FBI special agent Clint Watts told the Times: "The Russians in 2016 had to make false news stories or manipulated truths to power their narratives. This time they’re not writing anything that’s not already said in US space, often by Mr. Trump himself."
- Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress that Russia’s campaign was focused on sowing "divisiveness and discord" and hurting Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden’s chances at getting elected, The Times reported.
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Russia is once again interfering in the US election, but this time, The New York Times reported, instead of having to make up its propaganda, it is relying on misleading statements made by President Donald Trump in speeches and tweets.
Along with criticizing the US's pandemic response, Russia has mostly been interfering in the US by amplifying Trump's comments about the dangers of mail-in ballots, and spreading lies about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, The Times reported on Tuesday, based on interviews with analysts and a number of officials.
Foreign Policy Research Institute fellow and former FBI agent Clint Watts, who did a disinformation review, told The Times in 2016 Russian trolls had to "make false news stories or manipulated truths to power their narratives. This time they're not writing anything that's not already said in US space, often by Mr. Trump himself."
"They must be flabbergasted and saying, 'We really don't need to work hard this time,'" he said.
Last week, FBI director Christopher Wray told Congress that Russia's campaign was focused on sowing "divisiveness and discord" and hurting Biden's chances at getting elected, The Times reported.
On Tuesday, at a Chamber of Commerce forum, Biden's former national security adviser Antony Blinken said that as a "leading consumer and purveyor of conspiracy theories" Trump "seems to have suited up for the other side."
For example, in July, Trump claimed that "mail-in voting will lead to 'most corrupt election' in US history," which was picked up in early August by the Strategic Culture Foundation, an online journal the State Department found was run by Russian intelligence.
On the website, it said that Trump's "often wrong when he speaks or tweets spontaneously, but this time he just might be right," The Times reported.
In September, another Russian website called Sputnik repeated comments Trump made on Fox News about Biden taking drugs to help his debate performances.
Sputnik's post was picked up by a right-wing conspiracy website called Infowars and was shared throughout the US without any fear of removal, because it was no longer obviously Russian disinformation.
Russia's efforts to influence US elections have been covered extensively.
In 2017, Russian operatives spent more than $100,000 on Facebook ads, and tens of thousands of dollars on Google ads, to spread misinformation during the 2016 election, The Washington Post reported.
In July 2020, the Associated Press reported Russia had been creating fake news articles about COVID-19 that were critical of the US response, and critical of Biden.
In August, a New York Times Magazine investigation revealed that the Trump administration had pressured then-director of national intelligence Dan Coats, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to delete part of a report concluding that Russia was trying to get Trump reelected in 2020.
When Coats refused he was forced to retire early, and Trump denied the report's accuracy.
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