WASHINGTON – There is growing consensus among the international intelligence community that the American presidential elections were hacked by Russia. It is undeniable fact that the KGB reactivated its agents the cells posing as the IT companies around the world to exploit the vulnerabilities of social networks and open society.
The Russian government reached more than 10 million Americans with a misinformation campaign on Facebook, while reaching other voters with disinformation disseminated on Twitter and various Google platforms such as YouTube. Some of the Russian operatives-created ads, messages, and posts touted Trump, while others sought to create a climate favoring his election by spreading disinformation which aimed to sow social discord, increase racial animosity, and deepen ethnic tensions.
The Russian government, and especially KGB/FSB would not achieve its goals if not intentional effort or naive behavior of its American enablers among the Conservative movement. The Conservative radio talk show hosts partly ignorant and partly cynical together with the mega radical websites, including Breitbart, need to be perceived as important instruments that Moscow exploited to put up a candidate that would shape the world according to its calculations.
Russian government hackers stole emails and documents from the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign, and then coordinated with Wikileaks the schedule of the publication of some of these emails – some authentic, some doctored – in order to inflict maximum damage on the Clinton campaign. Russian government hackers also targeted 21 state election systems, stealing information from 90,000 voting records in the state of Illinois alone.
The Russian campaign on the different social media platforms consisted of ads, messages, and posts generated by thousands of fake accounts, internet trolls, and social bots. The massive wave of Russian disinformation consisted of three different types of ads, messages, and posts.
The complex disinformation campaign involved also introducing sharp divisions among the Democratic voters with unusually hostile messages towards Hillary Clinton and the over-sympathetic for Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders. The strategy focused on creation of un-reversible attitude of enmity towards Clinton. In the Soviet disinformation textbook this technique is known as the “rational decision denial tactics.” It involves agents (whether technical or personal assets) to direct a person’s attention on the emotional side of the story and to require immediate reaction from her or him.
These tactics were used in adds. The largest groups of false and misleading ads, messages, and posts were aimed to help Trump win the election by creating a political climate which would be more hospitable to his populist-nationalist message. These ads used false information, fake news, and fictional stories to inflame racial animosity, deepen ethnic and religious division, and intensify social discord. The Russian operatives also created ads lending evidential “support” for the most outlandish conspiracy theories disseminated by pro-Trump media personalities like Sean Hannity, Alex Jones and often confirmed among Conservative elites by political personas as Newt Gingrich or Ted Cruz.
It is probably impossible to reverse the decision being seen as the majority will made during the elections but perhaps the investigations of independent bodies of experts can expose and try to isolate the organizations, sponsors and politicians who contributed with their personal effort to the achievement of Russian KGB. The democratic world needs to restudy and re-research information collected by experts on Soviet disinformation during the Cold War since it is an inevitable that the knowledge and experience of it will continue to be exploited by Moscow in future.