Researchers have identified what they called a coordinated network of Twitter accounts that’s pushing false and misleading stories about election integrity with hashtags like #VoterFraud.
They found a core of 200 accounts that posted on Twitter or were mentioned in posts more than 140 million times in the past year, according to a research report published Saturday.
The findings don’t necessarily reflect a reprise of the Russian influence efforts in the 2016 election, nor are the posts clearly driven by automated bots, researchers say. But the network of accounts, which sounds off at relatively regular intervals has helped create an echo chamber to justify state-level ballot restrictions despite little evidence of voter fraud.
“There is a tragically ironic relationship between the perception that large groups of people are voting illegally,” while a small group of Twitter accounts is “wielding massive influence to spread disinformation, affecting the public’s understanding of voter fraud,” the report says. It was prepared by a volunteer group of researchers and technologists led by Guardians.ai, a New York startup focused on protecting pro-democracy organizations from information warfare and cyberattack.
Researchers couldn’t identify who was behind the coordination and said the patterns they found suggest that online influence operations have changed in subtle ways that avoid detection.