How Russian trolls manipulated American politics

A new complaint ...

Posted: Oct 20, 2018 11:24 PM
Updated: Oct 20, 2018 11:24 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."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1101185

Reported Deaths: 17557
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1441632231
Lake715041238
Allen65802880
Hamilton50322484
St. Joseph48966643
Elkhart39621543
Vanderburgh34317495
Tippecanoe30336273
Johnson27293465
Hendricks25947380
Porter25171386
Madison20749447
Clark19985277
Vigo18838308
LaPorte16924261
Delaware16480297
Howard16432311
Monroe16415219
Kosciusko13976165
Hancock12899185
Bartholomew12729189
Warrick12051190
Wayne11921267
Floyd11901226
Grant11755240
Morgan10276190
Boone9706121
Noble9094122
Henry9040165
Marshall8932147
Dearborn8866100
Dubois8751139
Shelby8101129
Cass8055127
Lawrence7939184
DeKalb7638107
Jackson752693
Huntington7475110
Gibson7019118
Montgomery6930123
Harrison688298
Knox6855115
Steuben655787
Miami6497109
Whitley644860
Putnam635583
Clinton619877
Wabash6080109
Jasper604992
Jefferson5710103
Ripley550292
Adams533781
Daviess5020117
Scott482880
Wells4733101
White470368
Greene463899
Clay459762
Decatur4548110
Jennings441766
Fayette438494
LaGrange421290
Posey404044
Washington385455
Randolph3834107
Fountain368762
Spencer357347
Fulton356872
Starke349073
Owen347577
Sullivan345754
Orange325571
Jay321950
Rush299632
Carroll290238
Franklin287144
Perry285153
Vermillion281158
Tipton248265
Parke247030
Pike245044
Blackford218744
Pulaski206458
Newton179752
Brown174050
Crawford168129
Benton163917
Martin151719
Switzerland145612
Warren132316
Union118316
Ohio91813
Unassigned0587

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1690217

Reported Deaths: 26587
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1772171827
Cuyahoga1648472640
Hamilton1125391528
Montgomery796451395
Summit705111199
Lucas620241020
Butler56096805
Stark527941171
Lorain41276642
Warren35509412
Mahoning35270771
Lake31622495
Clermont30804363
Delaware26791182
Trumbull26782616
Licking26297336
Medina25419351
Fairfield24256287
Greene24097372
Clark21748387
Portage20807281
Richland20686340
Wood19745246
Allen18638320
Miami17074348
Columbiana16571332
Muskingum16483206
Wayne15482306
Tuscarawas14158360
Marion13116194
Erie12479198
Ashtabula12417232
Scioto12288184
Pickaway12114153
Ross11526225
Hancock11321173
Geauga10726175
Lawrence10531172
Belmont10304234
Huron9633158
Jefferson9504227
Union944075
Sandusky9106166
Seneca8752157
Knox8663170
Washington8632158
Athens828996
Darke8288180
Ashland7873149
Auglaize7794117
Shelby7369133
Defiance7243115
Crawford7129150
Brown7072115
Fulton7058112
Logan6899108
Guernsey684284
Mercer683998
Highland6659119
Madison643889
Clinton6422106
Williams635899
Preble6194140
Putnam6126120
Jackson574096
Champaign570687
Perry561179
Coshocton5576104
Ottawa555499
Morrow509364
Fayette485370
Hardin480699
Gallia465478
Pike460176
Van Wert458993
Adams4531109
Henry426978
Hocking403093
Holmes3947140
Wyandot369373
Carroll354478
Paulding320551
Meigs303459
Monroe233661
Noble218047
Morgan212138
Harrison206953
Vinton184337
Unassigned06
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 40°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 41°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 41°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 40°
Van Wert
Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 42°
The warming trend is expected to continue through Thursday, before cooler air returns to the Midwest for the weekend.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events