Report: Russian troll farm accounts return ahead of election

Elections 2022

(NewsNation) — Russia is behind new attempts to influence voters through social media ahead of the midterms, according to a New York Times report.

Researchers at several cyber security companies found accounts on various platforms associated with Russia’s infamous troll factory — the Internet Research Agency.

The accounts went dormant after they were discovered in 2020, but have started back up in the past few months. They’re sharing false and misleading content as well as posts targeted at bashing President Joe Biden and other Democratic leaders, including candidates in tight Senate races like those in Ohio, Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Social media researchers found a number of Russian campaigns that have turned to Gab, Parler, Getter and other newer platforms that use a lack of moderation as a selling point to their users, the New York Times reported.

The U.S. government is aware of those efforts and has plans in place to combat election interference, said Jamil Jaffer, founder and executive director of the National Security Institute.

“What you see now is DHS and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency putting out warnings,” Jaffer said. “You see them working with the National Guard in about 14 states.”

In states with small IT teams, that assistance will be used to help defend their online infrastructure, according Jaffer said.

A Pew Research Center study published last month found that most alternative social media news consumers feel a sense of community on those sites, “which prominently identify themselves as havens of free speech.”

One account was identified by researchers as likely being connected to Russia foes by “Nora Berka” on the platform Gab.

The account’s posts have been specifically aimed at helping to erode U.S. support for Ukraine in its war against Russia.

In a memo to the public last month, the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned of similar threats.

It said in part, “…these foreign actors may create and knowingly disseminate false claims and narratives regarding voter suppression, voter or ballot fraud, and other false information intended to undermine confidence in the election processes and influence public opinion of the elections’ legitimacy.”

The New York Times reports the FBI and CISA have not responded to requests for comment on the research revealing the reactivation of the suspended Russian influence accounts.

To better spot misinformation and disinformation, the nonpartisan education nonprofit News Literacy Project recommends first looking at the language of the content in question.

For example, standards-based news organizations will report the information without using emotional, superlative-loaded language. If a source is unfamiliar, readers or viewers should visit that source’s website and check its mission statement or “about us,” NLP told NewsNation in an interview earlier this year.

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