According to a recent study, Russian disinformation and misinformation campaigns on social media had little influence on voters during the 2016 election. Discussing Russia’s alleged influence on the election, a longtime leftist narrative, one of the report’s authors said, “My personal sense coming out of this is that this got way overhyped.”
The Washington Post reports that a new study by the New York University Center for Social Media and Politics found that Russian influence operations on Twitter during the 2016 presidential election did not significantly impact voter behavior or attitudes.
The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, examines the extent to which Russian disinformation and misinformation achieved their objectives on one major social media platform during the 2016 election. The study’s key findings indicate that only one percent of Twitter users accounted for 70 percent of the exposure to accounts that Twitter identified as Russian trolls. Additionally, highly partisan Republicans were exposed to nine times more posts than non-Republicans. However, despite this significant exposure, the study found no measurable impact on “political attitudes, polarization, and vote preferences and behavior” from the Russian accounts and posts.
Despite these findings, the authors caution against drawing broad conclusions about the impact of foreign influence operations on social media. The study did not examine other social media platforms, such as Facebook, which has a much larger user base than Twitter, and it did not address Russian hack-and-leak operations.
Josh Tucker, one of the report’s authors and the co-director of the New York University Center, stated, “My personal sense coming out of this is that this got way overhyped,” in reference to the meaningfulness of the Russian tweets. Tucker also pointed out that “we can see how concentrated this was in one small portion of the population, and how the fact that people who were being exposed to these were really, really likely to vote for Trump,” Tucker said. “And then we have this data to show we can’t find any relationship between being exposed to these tweets and people’s change in attitudes.”
In conclusion, the study published by the New York University Center for Social Media and Politics suggests that Russian influence operations on Twitter during the 2016 presidential election were relatively limited in their reach and impact. However, it’s important to remember that this study only examines one aspect of the Russian foreign influence attempt and it only looks at Twitter. The study authors note that it is still important to continue to research and monitor foreign influence operations on social media in order to gain a more complete understanding of their impact.
At the beginning of January, a Twitter Files drop showed that Twitter itself could find very little Russian influence operations aimed at Americans on the platform, but then it changed course to please Democrat politicians and the leftist corporate media.
According to files published by journalist Matt Taibbi, In August 2017, after Facebook suspended 300 accounts with “suspected Russian origin,” Twitter employees initially decided that they did not have the same problem Mark Zuckerberg’s platform had.
That following month, Twitter informed the U.S. Senate that it only had 22 potential Russian accounts, as well as 179 others with “possible links” to those accounts.
But after Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), a ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, held an immediate press conference to denounce Twitter’s report as “frankly inadequate on every level,” Colin Crowell, the company’s Vice President of Public Policy, warned that they could be pressured to “keep producing material.”
“Warner has political incentive to keep this issue at top of the news, maintain pressure on us and rest of industry to keep producing material for them,” Crowell wrote in an email to then Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey after meeting with congressional leaders.
Read more at the Washington Post here.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan