Republican-led probe finds Russia helped Trump in 2016

Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Sen. Mark Warner, the committee's vice chair

Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Sen. Mark Warner, the committee's vice chair

The new Senate report said that, "by far, race and related issues were the preferred target of the information warfare campaign created to divide the country in 2016", with 66% of the IRA's paid Facebook ads invoking race "principally aimed at African-Americans in key metropolitan areas".

The report also notes that IRA accounts "increased" activity on social media after election day in 2016, including using left-leaning accounts that pushed hashtags like #Resist, #Impeach45, and #GunReformNow.

Following the 2016 election, "Instagram activity increased 238 percent, Facebook increased 59 percent, Twitter increased 52 percent, and YouTube citations went up by 84 percent", the report found.

The committee, led by Chairman Richard M. Burr of North Carolina and top Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia, released the first volume of its comprehensive investigation in July.

The recommendations came in an 85-page report issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

The vast majority of the online disinformation efforts were carried about by a well-funded firm called the Internet Research Agency, which was mainly funded by Evgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch who held close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The committee found that the IRA sought to influence the 2016 United States presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton's chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin", it said.

He addd that Russia's goal is now "broader: to sow societal discord and erode public confidence in the machinery of government. By flooding social media with false reports, conspiracy theories, and trolls, and by exploiting existing divisions, Russian Federation is trying to breed distrust of our democratic institutions and our fellow Americans".

Burr, Warner and the rest of the members of the Intelligence Committee also had a word of warning to campaigns, media outlets and basically anyone with a large social media presence about viral content across all social media platforms: verify its provenance before amplifying it.

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The Senate Intelligence Committee has confirmed the extent of the Russian government's expertise at exploiting racial divisions in America.

The committee warned of a possible repeat of Russian meddling in next year's election.

Social media operations in 2016, the committee concluded, were voluminous, fast and wide-ranging.

Mark Warner, the leading Democrat on the panel, warned of continuing and future efforts by the Kremlin to meddle in US elections. "T$3 heir techniques will only get more sophisticated", Warner said in a release accompanying the report.

The report said, for example, "the IRA targeted African-Americans over social media and attempted and succeeded in some cases to influence their targets to sign petitions, share personal information, and teach self-defense training courses".

It said Congress should consider legislation to ensure that US citizens know the source behind online political advertisements, referring to similar requirements for television, radio, and other ads that now exist.

"The executive branch should, in the run up to the 2020 election, reinforce with the public the danger of attempted foreign interference in the 2020 election", the report said.

The report said the administration "should establish an interagency task force to monitor foreign nations' use of social media platforms for democratic interference and develop a deterrence framework". It also says Congress should consider whether "formalizing" information-sharing between law enforcement and social media companies would be an effective step.

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