A Russian propaganda campaign was behind fake news efforts designed to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, according to a Washington Post report.
According to the paper, Independent researchers say the fake news flood was aided by “a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy.”
Russia’s army of bot networks, paid trolls, and networks of fake websites and social media accounts were employed “echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers.” The paper also reports that the campaign was designed to hype tension of combat between the United States and Russia at Clinton’s direction. In fact, many of these sites repeatedly claimed Clinton would trigger “World War III,” a concern many people who voted for Trump had.
Efforts to hack election computers and the theft and leak of internal Clinton campaign emails (later released by WikiLeaks and promoted by Julian Assange) also played into the disinformation campaign.
The Post cites a research report from PropOrNot, a “nonpartisan collection of researchers” that “identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans.”
The report found some of the information in the disinformation campaign could be traced to RT and Sputnik, news sources that are funded by Vladimir Putin’s government in Russia.
Putin was amongst the first world leaders to congratulate Trump on his victory, and Trump spoke to Putin days before he would contact the U.S. State and Defense departments.