Russian hackers did more than just crack open the email accounts of the DNC and Democratic consultants. They also created a host of accounts in social media for the express purpose of spreading “genuinely fake news.” That aspect of Russia’s disinformation campaign is being singled out not only as the most effective part of their 2016 operation, but the greatest threat going forward. But to make it work, the Russians needed help from an American source.
Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Russia ultimately had thousands of human agents and many times more automated “bots” busily creating stories that slammed Clinton and boosted Trump. The stories that this cyber army stuck together were not tossed randomly onto the net. They were carefully and directly targeted, often hitting potential Trump voters in the states and districts where they were most needed. A fact noted by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
[Senator Mark Warner] “It’s been reported to me—and we’ve got to find this out— whether they were able to affect specific areas in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, where you would not have been receiving off of whoever your vendor might have been, Trump versus Clinton, during the waning days of the election, but instead, ‘Clinton is sick’, or ‘Clinton is taking money from whoever for some source’ … fake news.
The answer for how Russia effectively targeted specific voters turns out to be … with help.
In Florida, GOP organizer Aaron Nivens already talked publicly (and joyfully) about how he assisted Russian hackers with just such a problem in his state.
… going through what the hacker sent as someone who “actually knows what some of these documents mean,” the GOP consultant said he “realized it was a lot more than even Guccifer knew that he had.” …
More impressed after studying the voter-turnout models, Mr. Nevins told the hacker, “Basically if this was a war, this is the map to where all the troops are deployed.”
And for anyone still pondering the “anything of value” portion of laws against colluding with foreign powers in an election, Nivens fills in that blank.
At another point, he told the hacker, “This is probably worth millions of dollars."
Nivens helped the Russians determine the value of the documents, and showed them how to weaponize the district level models for maximum damage. Did Kushner play this role at a national level?
The Russians targeted women and African-Americans in two of the three decisive states, Wisconsin and Michigan, “where the Democrats were too brain dead to realize those states were even in play,” Warner said. Twitter’s and Facebook’s search engines in those states were overwhelmed, he said, meaning they couldn’t discern fake news from real news.