Senior level Trump officials met with 40 to 50 members of the U.S House of Representatives along with the heads of the FBI, Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence on Tuesday May 22, to discuss the ongoing threats from Russia and other countries against the American election system.
“We see them continuing to conduct foreign influence campaigns,” DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said following the meeting. Nielsen was referring to Russian influence in several European nations over the last two years. More recently, Russia has been accused of meddling in the 2016 United States Presidential election.
The extent of the influence upon the U.S Presidential election has yet to be fully uncovered but it is widely believed that the Russians tried to influence both the Trump and Clinton campaigns. The Russians are accused of spreading disinformation via social media platforms to create discontent and animosity amongst both sides. To that end, special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted a Russian troll farm outside Moscow which has been accused of being a primary factor in creating discontent across the democratic world.
13 members of the troll farm have been accused of spreading discontent on Facebook and Twitter, however none are expected to face jail time as Russia is expected not to extradite the individuals to the US to face charges.
Some of the content that was created by the Russian troll farm was posted on accounts that were stolen on Twitter and Facebook, and then went onto post things like, “Hillary doesn’t deserve your black vote,” a message they spread around social media in May of 2016. The posts were used to divide Americans amongst racial, class and political lines.
Another post on social media said, “Trump is our only hope for the future!” The depth of Russian manipulation went so far as to having the members of the IRA (Russia’s Internet Research Agency) travel to nine U.S states to research vulnerabilities in American culture and society.
The media posts were targeted at both sides of the political aisle aimed at increasing hostilities and were largely successful in their operation. Even after the election, the IRA continued in their campaign of sowing discontent. However, following the election, the group would post such messages as “Trump is not my president,” and going so far as to arrange pro and anti-Trump demonstrations in New York City.
The United States isn’t the only country to blame Russia for meddling. As of today, over 27 countries have said that Russia meddled in their election process. Many of the countries are former Soviet Union bloc members and Western European countries. Some of the examples of Russian meddling include:
- In April 2004 the Prime Minister of Lithuania, Rolandas Paksas was impeached for granting citizenship to alleged former Russian crime figure, Yuri Borisov. He was impeached after it was learned that he leaked classified information to Borisov
- In August 2008, cyberattacks which were thought to be conducted by Russians, shut down internet traffic in Georgia.
- In late July 2016, the website Wikileaks published 20,000 emails from the Democratic National committee which were suspected to be stolen by Russian hackers. The emails were very damaging to the DNC’s image. The most damaging was the fact that it showed that the DNC was trying to undermine the Bernie Sanders campaign in favor for the Hillary Clinton campaign.
These are just a few of the instances in which Russia is accused of being involved in manipulating other countries elections.
“These are the tools they use to undermine democratic institutions in different places,” Laura Rosenberg, who is head of the alliance said regarding the issue. “For a lot of Americans, the question of interference in U.S elections came out of nowhere. It sounds crazy to most people that this has been part of the Russian playbook for more than a decade.”
Concluding, the U.S should not only spend more money on election safety but also update it’s electronic voting machines to make sure they are update to date with the newest protection available. It is up to Trump and the rest of America’s leadership to ensure such manipulation is prevented in the future.
Links to sources:
- Reuters Link: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-security/u-s-officials-warn-congress-on-2018-election-hacking-threats-idUSKCN1IN25H
- BBC Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-43093390
- USA Today Link: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/09/07/alleged-russian-political-meddling-documented-27-countries-since-2004/619056001/