A cybersecurity expert said Thursday that he believes social media behemoths Facebook and Twitter may have been complicit in a “Russian-style” bot attack campaign that targeted GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore in a special election last year to fill then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former seat.
Moore lost an extremely close race in a deep red state to Democrat Doug Jones, in part, some now believe, due to an “experiment” by Left-leaning tech firms who modeled their operation after Russia’s 2016 election meddling.
In an interview on Fox Business‘ “Lou Dobbs Tonight” program, cybersecurity expert Morgan Wright said it seems likely that Facebook and Twitter would have picked up on the activity given the high profile nature of the Senate race.
“The big question is why didn’t Twitter and Facebook pick this up? This was such a big race,” Wright said. “This was the epicenter of everything that was going on. And so this thing, if you think it influenced votes in the presidential election, I guarantee you the use of these tactics, they modeled it right after Russia. The exact same playbook.”
The New York Times broke the bombshell story shortly before Christmas.
The Times reported:
As Russia’s online election machinations came to light last year, a group of Democratic tech experts decided to try out similarly deceptive tactics in the fiercely contested Alabama Senate race, according to people familiar with the effort and a report on its results.
The secret project, carried out on Facebook and Twitter, was likely too small to have a significant effect on the race, in which the Democratic candidate it was designed to help, Doug Jones, edged out the Republican, Roy S. Moore. But it was a sign that American political operatives of both parties have paid close attention to the Russian methods, which some fear may come to taint elections in the United States.
One participant in the Alabama project, Jonathon Morgan, is the chief executive of New Knowledge, a small cyber security firm that wrote a scathing account of Russia’s social media operations in the 2016 election that was released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
An internal report on the Alabama effort, obtained by The New York Times, says explicitly that it “experimented with many of the tactics now understood to have influenced the 2016 elections.”
Two things of note. One, the Times, like other Democrat operatives the paper spoke to for the story, were all quick to say that the $100,000 spent on the ‘experiment’ was too small to have affected the election outcome. But there’s no way to know that. Plus, why conduct the experiment if the objective wasn’t to influence the outcome?
Two, it’s worth reminding readers that this same firm that conducted the ‘experiment’ also wrote the “scathing” Senate report Democrats used to — again — point the finger of blame at Russia for it’s supposed substantial election interference in 2016, though Russian operatives spent a fraction of what New Knowledge spent.
For his part, Wright isn’t convinced that the social media giants weren’t in on the Alabama Senate scandal from the outset.
“The bigger question is and I go back to, is we’ve had all of these quote lessons learned, but where was Facebook and Twitter on the identification of a thousand bots that were created literally overnight on Twitter and then all of the Facebook. Why wasn’t this picked up by them?” he said.
“It almost makes you wonder if there was complicity and a blind eye that was turned in this election,” he added.
It sure does. And the Alabama attorney general, Steve Marshall, is now looking into all this. — Jon Dougherty
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