Russia's information warfare in US extended beyond 2016 election

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A bipartisan U.S. Senate report on Russia's use of social media has determined that a Kremlin-backed "troll farm" sought to boost the campaign of Donald Trump and hurt rival Hilary Clinton, largely backing up the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community.

The Senate Intelligence Committee's 2016 election investigation report said a sweeping social media manipulation campaign by the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) represented "overt support of Russia's favoured candidate in the United States presidential election".

The senators described the social media activities of the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency in 2016 as part of a "broader, sophisticated, and ongoing information warfare campaign created to sow discord in American politics and society".

"No single group of Americans was targeted by [Internet Research Agency] information operatives more than African-Americans".

"This campaign sought to polarize Americans on the basis of societal, ideological, and racial differences, provoked real world events, and was part of a foreign government's covert support of Russia's favored candidate in the USA presidential election", the report reads.

"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", Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said in a written statement.

"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 said.

The study also found that Russia's efforts to meddle increased, rather than decreased, following Election Day in November 2016. "T$3 heir techniques will only get more sophisticated", Warner said in a release accompanying the report. "This bipartisan report should cause social media companies to seriously question the role they play in advancing the president's unsafe rhetoric". The report highlights that a "discernible emphasis on targeting African-Americans" was seen on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and yeah, even Tumblr. "We have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation that we need to confront", Harris wrote on Twitter.

"We have a common set of facts about what happened, and we know that there is a continued threat against our democracy", Klobuchar said.

Research from the Senate Intel Committee and other investigations, including the Mueller probe, have previously found evidence that Russia's interference efforts stoked racial tensions in an effort to depress African-American voter turnout.

Among the recommendations, it said social media networks must work harder to allow for greater information sharing between the public and private sector to prevent abuses in the future, and it called for Congress to "facilitate productive coordination" with regard to the effort.

On Tuesday, House Democrats unveiled an election security bill that would require more transparency in online political ads along with tightening laws around the exchange of campaign information between candidates and foreign governments and requiring that campaigns report illicit offers of foreign help to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. McConnell, however, has supported an effort to send $250 million in additional election security funds to states to shore up their systems ahead of 2020.

USA intelligence agencies concluded that Russia meddled in the 2016 campaign in an "influence campaign" ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin in an attempt to help eventual victor Trump and denigrate Clinton, his Democratic rival on the November 8 ballot.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), another 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and the ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee with jurisdiction over election security, also spoke out on Tuesday during an event in Minneapolis in support of passing election security legislation following Russian interference efforts in 2016.

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