The redacted Special Counsel file launched this morning confirms that the Russian authorities, thru diverse proxies, carried out a multi-pronged marketing campaign towards the US before, during, and after the 2016 election. That campaign involved 3 wonderful elements:
A social media influence and infiltration operation led through the Internet Research Agency (IRA);
A cyber hacking operation achieved with the aid of the Russian navy intelligence (GRU); and
An infiltration operation of the Trump campaign.
The report describes in stunning element the inner workings of the whole Russian operation. To date, the file is the maximum complete account (in addition to the formerly launched indictment of IRA and GRU operatives) of ways the Russian operation developed through the years, how a hit it turned into in targeting and duping Americans, and the Kremlin’s motivation.
This publish focuses particularly on what the Mueller report tells us approximately the information operations. A 2nd publish will focus on what we’ve discovered approximately Russian cyber operations and talents.
THE IRA’S TACTICS EVOLVED OVER TIME
The IRA’s first step became to construct a network of money owed. Its social media sports commenced in 2014, looking to create character impersonation money owed supposed to appear to be Americans, specifically on Facebook.
Step turned into target audience growth. The IRA did so through creating pages and content material that has been now not always political or maybe divisive, however, certainly meant to draw greater eyeballs to IRA-managed pages and debts. By early 2015, the IRA had turned to target audience-constructing around divisive social troubles by creating social media groups and pages posing as U.S. Corporations and activists, which include “Secured Borders” and “Blacktivist” (see pages 22-25 of the Special Counsel document).
Step three become to turn this network political. It turned into simplest once the IRA installed its target market base that it grew to become explicitly to the U.S. Elections round February 2016, with the explicit aim of undermining the Clinton campaign. Instructions to the IRA examine, on the time: “Main idea: use any opportunity to criticize Hillary [Clinton] and the relaxation (except Sanders and Trump – we assist them)” (p. 25).
Step four become a pass toward promoting the Trump marketing campaign even as similarly building the reach of the content. The recognition remained mainly on criticizing Clinton until past due spring 2016, whilst the IRA commenced to actively sell Donald Trump. At the equal time, it aimed to further growth its target audience through purchasing classified ads to sell its pages and accomplishing out thru private messages to Facebook customers prompting them to arrange anti-Clinton rallies. (Recall that the IRA purchased over three,500 ads and spent approximately $one hundred,000, as particular on web page 25 of the document.) By the time Facebook deactivated the IRA debts in mid-2017, the maximum famous organization—“United Muslims of America”—had over 300,000 followers.
By the stop of the 2016 election, the IRA “had the capacity to reach tens of millions of U.S. Men and women via their social media debts” on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Tumblr, in keeping with the document (see page 26). Facebook later expected that IRA-controlled money owed reached as many as 126 million human beings, and an additional 1.Four million were reached thru Twitter.
On Twitter, the IRA observed a similar impersonation and target audience-building strategy through creating individual debts that could submit content, which both networks would then extend. As has been formerly mentioned, U.S. Media retailers quoted the IRA-managed bills as representing real American reviews. So did contributors to the Trump marketing campaign, inclusive of Trump own family contributors (see pages 27-35 of the report).