Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s office has been engaged in a months-long legal battle against alleged Russian troll farms who have been accused of carrying out a plot to interfere with the 2016 election through various methods, including spreading political messages online. Mueller’s court filings have accused companies such as Internet Research Agency (IRA) of using fake social media accounts to spread messages that included negative posts about President Donald Trump‘s opponents, but a new report prepared for the Senate shows that after the election, IRA turned their attention towards Mueller himself.
“As articles began to emerge about election interference – pointing the finger at Russia – the IRA didn’t shy away or ignore it,” the report by organization New Knowledge said. “It used derision and disparagement in content targeting the Right-leaning pages, to create and amplify the narrative that the whole investigation was nonsense, that Comey and Mueller were corrupt, and that the emerging Russia stories were a ‘weird conspiracy’ pushed by ‘liberal crybabies’. As facets of the investigation trickled out over 2017, the Right-targeted accounts justified, dismissed, normalized, and redirected.”
The report, which was submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee, showed how IRA allegedly used social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to disseminate messages targeted to key demographics like African-Americans. It also said that while earlier efforts targeted Trump’s GOP primary rivals like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Dr. Ben Carson, later efforts were geared towards Trump’s next–and ongoing–political battle against Mueller and now-former FBI Director James Comey.
IRA’s messages, the report said, looked to discredit the Russia investigation and sway Americans towards being skeptical of those running it.
“[T]he IRA narratives began to actively mock the idea that Russians had interfered in the U.S. election (as described earlier in this report),” it said. “Facebook and Instagram accounts targeted James Comey after President Trump fired him, and targeted the Robert Mueller investigation.”
One example of such a message was an image of Mueller with text that read, “Russia Special Counsel Mueller Worked With Radical Islamic Groups To Purge Anti-Terrorism Training Material Offensive To Muslims.”
The report pointed out that while messages that IRA spread may have been offensive to certain parts of the populations, not all of it was false, “But it was absolutely intended to reinforce tribalism, to polarize and divide, and to normalize points of view strategically advantageous to the Russian government on everything from social issues to political candidates.”
New Knowledge noted that while efforts from social media platforms have helped decreased this activity, IRA is still active in their campaign, with several accounts still in existence, some active, others dormant.
[Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]