WaPo Reports That Twitter Trolls Didn’t Influence Voters In The Presidential Election In… 2016

Written by K. Walker on January 9, 2023

What would we do without accurate, timely journalism, eh?

Is this a case of “better late than never” or a delayed statement of the obvious?

Frankly, it seems more like the latter.

The Left made such a big deal about online Russian “influence” operations for years without much evidence that these social media troll farms had any real effect on voters.

Yet there were inches upon inches of column space dedicated to how Russia was responsible for the election of President Donald J. Trump.


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This is a real headline in the Washington Post’s Cybersecurity 202 Newsletter on Monday:

To be fair to the Washington Post, (which really doesn’t deserve the courtesy,) the report is based on a study that has just been released by the New York University Center for Social Media and Politics.

According to WaPo, the study explores “the limits of what Russian disinformation and misinformation was able to achieve on one major social media platform in the 2016 elections.”

“Russian influence operations on Twitter in the 2016 presidential election reached relatively few users, most of whom were highly partisan Republicans, and the Russian accounts had no measurable impact in changing minds or influencing voter behavior, according to a study out this morning,” begins the article. (Emphasis added)

It continues:

“My personal sense coming out of this is that this got way overhyped,” Josh Tucker, one of the report’s authors who is also the co-director of the New York University center, told me about the meaningfulness of the Russian tweets.
“Now we’re looking back at data and 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.”

The WaPo article states a few key things to note (with ClashDaily commentary in parentheses).

  • The study doesn’t include other social media sites like the much larger Facebook (although, that appears to have also been overblown)
  • It doesn’t address Russian hack-and-leak operations (which was the premise used to censor the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story)
  • It doesn’t suggest that foreign influence operations aren’t a threat at all (true — look at how the pandemic was handled)

The report states that “highly partisan Republicans were exposed to nine times more posts” than non-Republicans, but also that the content put out by politicians and the U.S. media “dwarfed the amount of Russian influence content” that the electorate was exposed to.

Then the kicker…(Emphasis WaPo)

Given the small margins of victory in some states for Trump, could even a small number of people who changed their attitudes as a result of Russian influence operations online have swayed the vote? The sample size of the Twitter study suggests not, but “we’ll never really know,” Tucker said. “We cannot reject out of hand that there wasn’t some incredibly unlikely confluence of things here that happened in this regard.”
“Despite these consistent findings, it would be a mistake to conclude that simply because the Russian foreign influence campaign on Twitter was not meaningfully related to individual-level attitudes that other aspects of the campaign did not have any impact on the election, or on faith in American electoral integrity,” the report states.
Source: Washington Post

Well, duh!

It appears that the “influence” campaign was actually a “distraction” campaign meant to stoke political divisions to have Americans fighting against each other while Russia does its own thing like… oh, I don’t know… make Europe dependent on them for fuel as they prepare to invade Ukraine to secure even more fossil fuel resources. But hey, I’m just spitballin’ here…

The Cybersecurity 202 newsletter also included a couple of other newsworthy stories — a new FCC rule that requires telecommunications carriers to immediately notify law enforcement and customers of data breaches, and that a watchdog group found that even some senior employees in the Department of the Interior aren’t using secure passwords… which seems like a big deal.

The Interior Department’s inspector general wrote in a report that many agency employees used weak passwords, such as ones based around the word “password,” and that investigators were able to crack around 21 percent of agency employee passwords, including nearly 300 more powerful accounts and around 360 accounts belonging to senior government employees.
Source: Washington Post

Ah, yes. We are lectured constantly by people that are just now discovering that Russian Twitter bots didn’t put the Bad Orange Man in office and others that use variants of “password” as their password to log into secure government servers.

Bravo, everyone! Well done. Truly spectacular. You don’t look like idiots at all.

Elon Smoked The Old Twitter Bird

ClashDaily’s Big Dawg has put his own spin on what’s been going down on the ol’ Bird App — the old Twitter is dead and Elon is building a new one.

Check out Doug’s latest piece, ‘Elon Smoked The Old Twitter Bird.’

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ClashDaily's Associate Editor since August 2016. Self-described political junkie, anti-Third Wave Feminist, and a nightmare to the 'intersectional' crowd. Mrs. Walker has taken a stand against 'white privilege' education in public schools. She's also an amateur Playwright, former Drama teacher, and staunch defender of the Oxford comma. Follow her humble musings on Twitter: @TheMrsKnowItAll and on Gettr @KarenWalker