13 Russians Indicted For Swaying 2016 US Presidential Elections Using Social Media
Donal J. Trump is the President of the United States. He won the 2016 Presidential Elections by beating Hilary Clinton. On November 8, 2016, Trump received 306 pledged electoral votes versus 232 for Clinton. The victory was unforeseen by many experts and over the course of the past year, lots of information about the campaign has been unearthed. On the 16th of February, the Justice Department indicted 13 Russian nationals and 3 companies for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
The Russians stole the identities of American citizens and posed as political activists to deviate the public opinion against a certain Presidential candidate. However, there was no accusation that President Trump or his associates were knowingly part of the conspiracy.
The Russian nationals used the power and reach of social media to sway public opinions. In today’s world, where the majority of the public gets their news from social media, this is a dangerous proposition. The fact that a few individuals with malice intentions can influence one of the biggest events in the world is quite frightening. This also proves that so many people believe whatever is on social media without fact-checking.
The Russians carried out a campaign called “Project Lakhta”. It began in early-2014 and targeted a few individuals while siding with others. In early-2016, they intended to attack Hillary Clinton, Senator Ted Cruz, and Senator Marco Rubio, while supporting Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. After that, they attacked Hilary Clinton and focused on supporting the campaign of Donald Trump.
The accused Russian nationals created fake social media accounts and bought ads to promote their agendas. These advertisements ran between April 2016 and October 2016 and targeted Hilary Clinton. One of the ads mentioned equated Hilary to Satan and Trump to Jesus. This indictment also goes against President Trump’s claims that Russia did not meddle in the elections and that it was all “fake news.”
While President Trump has not been mentioned as a complicit, same cannot be said about Vladimir Putin. American intelligence officials have publicly said that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia directed and oversaw Project Lakhta. Two of the three companies hold Russian government contracts.
Such is the power of social media that if not single-handedly, it can at least sway the public reaction. The use of social media by Russian nationals prove that we believe memes and videos over trusted news outlets. Therefore, we need to take a hard look at what we see on social media and what is really worth believing.