Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election has generally been seen as two separate, unrelated tracks: hacking Democratic emails and sending provocative tweets. But a new study suggests the tactics were likely intertwined.
On the eve of the release of hacked Clinton campaign emails, Russian-linked trolls retweeted messages from thousands of accounts on both extremes of the American ideological spectrum.
Those retweets increased the odds selected Twitter users would be online and able to express outrage when the next day on Oct. 7, details such as the revelation that Clinton may have had early access to a primary debate question were released.
Those retweets also brought those lesser-known users a wider audience, encouraging them to tweet more, and ultimately helping polarize American public debate.
In the study, Clemson University professors Darren L. Linvill and Patrick L. Warren say messages were retweeted from some 4,000 accounts on Oct. 6, 2016, the day before Wikileaks’ release of hacked emails belonging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.