The redacted Special Counsel document released this morning confirms that the Russian government, through various proxies, executed a multi-pronged marketing campaign towards America before, throughout, and after the 2016 election. That marketing campaign involved three distinct factors:
A social media influence and infiltration operation led with the aid of the Internet Research Agency (IRA);
A cyber hacking operation executed through the Russian army intelligence (GRU); and
An infiltration operation of the Trump campaign.
The file describes in lovely element the inner workings of the total Russian operation. To date, the report is the maximum complete account (in addition to the formerly released indictment of IRA and GRU operatives) of how the Russian operation evolved over time, how successful it turned into in focused on and duping Americans, and the Kremlin’s motivation.
This submit focuses specifically on what the Mueller record tells us approximately the records operations. A second put up will awareness on what we have discovered about Russian cyber operations and abilities.
THE IRA’S TACTICS EVOLVED OVER TIME
The IRA’s first step was to build a network of debts. Its social media sports started in 2014, looking for to create individual impersonation money owed supposed to look like Americans, specifically on Facebook.
Step two changed into target audience increase. The IRA did so via growing pages and content that had been not necessarily political or even divisive, however honestly meant to attract extra eyeballs to IRA-managed pages and money owed. By early 2015, the IRA had grew to become to target market-constructing round divisive social troubles by using growing social media groups and pages posing as U.S. Groups and activists, together with “Secured Borders” and “Blacktivist” (see pages 22-25 of the Special Counsel report).
Step three turned into to show this network political. It was handiest as soon as the IRA mounted its audience base that it grew to become explicitly to the U.S. Elections round February 2016, with the specific goal of undermining the Clinton campaign. Instructions to the IRA study, on time: “Main idea: use any opportunity to criticize Hillary [Clinton] and the rest (besides Sanders and Trump – we aid them)” (p. 25).
Step 4 turned into a circulate in the direction of promoting the Trump campaign while in addition constructing the attain of the content material. The recognition remained mostly on criticizing Clinton till overdue spring 2016, while the IRA started to actively promote Donald Trump. At the identical time, it aimed to further boom its target audience with the aid of purchasing classified ads to promote its pages and accomplishing out through private messages to Facebook customers prompting them to organize anti-Clinton rallies. (Recall that the IRA purchased over three,500 commercials and spent about $a hundred,000, as particular on web page 25 of the record.) By the time Facebook deactivated the IRA debts in mid-2017, the maximum popular organization—“United Muslims of America”—had over 300,000 fans.
By the stop of the 2016 election, the IRA “could attain thousands and thousands of U.S. People thru their social media bills” on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Tumblr, in line with the report (see page 26). Facebook later predicted that IRA-controlled accounts reached as many as 126 million human beings, and a further 1.Four million were reached thru Twitter.
On Twitter, the IRA observed a similar impersonation and target audience-building approach through creating private money owed that would put up content, which both networks would then enlarge. As has been formerly pronounced, U.S. Media shops quoted the IRA-controlled money owed as representing real American opinions. So did members of the Trump campaign, along with Trump circle of relatives individuals (see pages 27-35 of the record).