News & Politics

Trump Campaign Staff Publicly Circulated Russian Propaganda on Twitter Before the Election: Report

Top officials tweeted state-backed foreign propaganda disguised as domestic content.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Multiple members of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, including Donald Trump Jr., campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and other staffers circulated tweets by professional trolls on the payroll of the Russian government, according to a startling new report from the Daily Beast.

According to the Daily Beast:

“The Twitter account @Ten_GOP, which called itself the 'Unofficial Twitter account of Tennessee Republicans,' was operated from the Kremlin-backed ‘Russian troll farm,’ or Internet Research Agency, a source familiar with the account confirmed.”

The Russian-backed organization responsible for the tweets engaged in a widespread influence campaign that included popular social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

Twitter refused to comment on the revelations, citing “privacy and security reasons.” 

This is the first tangible evidence presented to the public that members of the Trump campaign team promoted Russian propaganda materials in the course of the election. Some of these campaign members, including Conway and the president's son, are influential within the Trump administration. Conway is now a top White House staffer, serving as counselor to the president.

According to former FBI counterterrorism agent Clint Watts, the propaganda content was “designed to look organic” to dupe Americans into promoting the content themselves in the hope of swaying the election.

The promotion of the Russian tweets does not establish that Trump’s campaign members knew the content's origin. Numerous right-wing Twitter accounts outside the campaign also retweeted the same content with likely no knowledge that the tweets were Russian state propaganda.

As congressional investigations examine Russian election interference and question Trump aides under oath, these latest revelations provide yet another piece of the puzzle into how far-reaching Russia’s influence actually was during the 2016 presidential race.

 

Chris Sosa is a managing editor at AlterNet. His work also appears in Mic, Salon, Care2, Huffington Post and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisSosa.

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