One of the things that really amazes me about the 2016 US presidential election wasn’t that a reality TV star with zero political experience who has a hit-and-miss relationship with the word “truth” actually won the election. I certainly didn’t expect it, but here we are. Instead, what has continued to amaze me is the outright refusal of the Trump administration to acknowledge the reality that Russia interfered with our election, and have continued to do so.
Hell, even the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee has acknowledged and stood by the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered with the election.
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And though we in the United States like to think that we’re special, and everything is about us, this phenomenon is not exclusive to us. Russia has also attempted to interfere with the Brexit fiasco, too.
So it’s not surprising in the slightest that Russia has continued to try to screw with people.
There’s a #WalkAway hashtag on Twitter right now, supposedly made by ex-democrats who have left the party and are encouraging others to do so.
This is a fake/bot account trying to make #WalkAway happen. 16k RTs for “Sofia Vargoros,” a bot with a profile pic stolen from — I am not kidding — a book about getting rich from penny stocks. pic.twitter.com/wTwphtPS23
— Sarah Lertzman (@sllertzman) July 1, 2018
And according to Hamilton 68, which analyzes tweets for signs of Russian influence, Russia is actually the source.
The #walkaway movement, a campaign highlighting alleged discord among the left, got a boost this week from accounts linked to Russian influence operations. The first use of the #walkaway hashtag from accounts monitored on Hamilton 68 was noted in early June (a few weeks after the grassroots campaign began), but engagement remained relatively low throughout the month. Activity spiked on July 2, when Hamilton 68 noted 73 unique tweets using #walkaway, and roughly another 50 using related campaign hashtags (e.g. #walkawaymovement). The late engagement suggests Kremlin-oriented accounts are trailers rather than leaders of the campaign, but the high-level of current engagement indicates an effort to astroturf support for the movement and hijack the narrative. This includes several monitored accounts that have changed their handles to include the hashtag, or that have shared their own supposed walkaway moments. The campaign also received a direct boost from Russian propaganda outlets RT and Sputnik, both of which ran stories on the movement.
The movement, and I can’t express enough how this is not supposed to be a joke, is supposed to represent actual human people who have left the Democratic party because of its intolerance and lack of civility.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Go ahead, take all the time that you need.
And again, there are memes made by the Russian trolls to try to create discord and further fracture democrats. How do we know they’re fake? Because a reverse image search of the models brings up the photos on Shutterstock.
This one is funny because it’s so lazy. They would have been better off saying “I was a democrat my whole life, but then I took an arrow to the knee.”
This one doesn’t even make sense, has poor grammar, and whoever created it should feel bad.
What?! What rational person has ever suggested that Trump should be assassinated? Literally nobody with half a brain has called for this or even joked about it.
Come on, guys. You really can’t be this lazy, right? This seems to be more of an insult to our intelligence rather than a misinformation attack.
It has ranked as the third or fourth most popular Kremlin-linked hashtag for days, according to bot tracking by the Hamilton 68 site run by the bipartisan Alliance for Securing Democracy, which keeps tabs on Russian activity on the American internet.
Arc Digital has made the same connection in the “strikingly similar” tweets pushing a “familiar narrative” of Democratic “bullying.” Arc traced the campaign from a Facebook group in May and subsequent tweets whose traffic suddenly began to explode late last month.
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I’ve said this many times before – from everything I’ve read, it doesn’t appear that Putin has an ideology he’s trying to promote. Instead, the only apparent goal for Russia seems to be to spread chaos and divide people in order to further extend their influence and/or maintain their own authority. The same could be said for the Trump administration, I suppose.
It’s important that we exercise careful skepticism when we read things online, that we consider our sources of information, and that we don’t jump to conclusions based on an emotional response. It’s perfectly normal to feel outrage and fear, but knee-jerk reactions are seldom the most intelligent.
This is another battle in a larger war by Russia, and other propaganda outlets (I’m looking at you, Fox News) to divide the left and maintain control.
We don’t have to always agree on everything, but I think something we can all agree on is the fact that it’s never been more important to encourage skepticism and critical thinking.
This post was updated on July 24th, 2018.