March 25, 2017
Your standard Russia bot contractor
As it turns out that Alex Jones (AKA Alexi Jonesenov) and Steve Bannon (AKA Sergei Baninskinov) are also Russian agents – just like everyone else who didn’t support Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
And as it turns out, they may have committed some type of conspiracy by posting news article which support Donald Trump.
As it turns out, supporting Donald Trump on the internet is a very serious crime in America.
Federal investigators are examining whether far-right news sites played any role last year in a Russian cyber operation that dramatically widened the reach of news stories — some fictional — that favored Donald Trump’s presidential bid, two people familiar with the inquiry say.
Operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as “bots,” to blitz social media with links to the pro-Trump stories at times when the billionaire businessman was on the defensive in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, these sources said.
The bots’ end products were largely millions of Twitter and Facebook posts carrying links to stories on conservative internet sites such as Breitbart News and InfoWars, as well as on the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News, the sources said. Some of the stories were false or mixed fact and fiction, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the bot attacks are part of an FBI-led investigation into a multifaceted Russian operation to influence last year’s elections.
Investigators examining the bot attacks are exploring whether the far-right news operations took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives. Their participation, however, wasn’t necessary for the bots to amplify their news through Twitter and Facebook.
The investigation of the bot-engineered traffic, which appears to be in its early stages, is being driven by the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, whose inquiries rarely result in criminal charges and whose main task has been to reconstruct the nature of the Kremlin’s cyber attack and determine ways to prevent another.
An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the inquiry into the use of bots.
Russia-generated bots are one piece of a cyber puzzle that counterintelligence agents have sought to solve for nearly a year to determine the extent of the Moscow government’s electronic broadside.
“This may be one of the most highly impactful information operations in the history of intelligence,” said one former U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
As for the bots, they carried links not only to news stories but also to Democratic emails posted on WikiLeaks, especially those hacked from Podesta and made public in October, said Philip Howard, a professor at the Oxford University Internet Institute who has researched the bot attacks.
Howard said that, as an example, bots had spread links to fictional stories that accused Clinton of involvement in running a child-sex ring in the basement of a Washington pizza parlor. The posts inspired a North Carolina man to drive to Washington and fire an assault weapon in the restaurant, according to police reports.
Howard’s study of bot-generated Twitter traffic during last fall’s Trump-Clinton campaign debates showed that bot messages favorable to Trump significantly outnumbered those sympathetic to Clinton.
He said his research showed that Americans who call themselves “patriotic programmers” also activated bots to aid Trump. In interviews, they described coding the computer commands in their spare time, Howard said.
Unlike counterintelligence investigators with more cyber-sleuthing capabilities, Howard has not established that Russia was the source of the bot attacks he studied.
Russia also used “trolls,” hundreds of computer operatives who pretended to be Trump supporters and posted stories or comments on the internet complimentary to Trump or disparaging to Clinton. Sources close to the inquiry said those operatives likely worked from a facility in St. Petersburg, Russia, dedicated to that tactic.
An artist’s rendition of the type of SERIOUS SHIT that is going down in the St. Petersburg troll/bot command center
“Russian bots and internet trolls sought to propagate stories underground,” said Mike Carpenter, a former senior Pentagon official during the Obama administration whose job focused on Russia. “Those stories got amplified by fringe elements of our media like Breitbart.”
“They very carefully timed release of information to shift the news cycle away from stories that clearly hurt Mr. Trump, such as his inappropriate conduct over the years,” he said, referring to the October release of a video in which Trump bragged about grabbing women’s genitals. That event corresponded with a surge in bot-related traffic spreading anti-Clinton stories.
An additional Russian tool was the news from its prime propaganda machine, Russia Today, with a global television and digital media operation and a U.S. arm, RT America.
Last Nov. 19, Breitbart announced that its website traffic had set a record the previous 31 days with 300 million page views, driven substantially by social media.
Breitbart is partially owned by Robert Mercer, the wealthy co-chief executive of a New York hedge fund and a co-owner of Cambridge Analytica, a small, London-based firm credited with giving Trump a significant advantage in gauging voter priorities last year by providing his campaign with at least 5,000 data points on each of 220 million Americans.
InfoWars is published by Alex Jones, a Texas-based conservative talk show host known for embracing conspiracy theories such as one asserting that the U.S. government was involved in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. During the 2016 campaign, InfoWars.com was a loyal Trump public relations tool. Trump was on Jones’ show and praised his reporting.
“It’s the major source of everything,” Roger Stone, a longtime Trump confidant and campaign adviser, said last fall. Stone, who has regularly appeared on Jones’ show and was on Monday, has said he invites an FBI investigation into his campaign role. The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked Stone to preserve documents in connection with the Russian election inquiry.
Jones responded to questions from McClatchy on his talk show.
“I’m not gonna sit here and say, ‘I’m not a Russian stooge,’ because it’s a (expletive) lie,” he said, denying any contact with the Kremlin operatives about bots. He said this issue stemmed from “this whole ridiculous narrative of the bitching left.”
“It’s as if we didn’t build InfoWars,” he said. “It’s as if we don’t have a huge audience.”
Noting he had appeared on RT “probably 100 times or more,” he said sarcastically, “There’s my Russian connection.”
Boosted by bots, the surge in readership for such websites amplified Clinton’s negatives. Some stories falsely described her health problems as dire. Jones said Monday that people gravitated to his website “because we were the first to report Hillary Clinton falling down.” He referred to Clinton appearing to collapse last Sept. 11 after visiting the World Trade Center memorial. She was diagnosed with pneumonia.
“The full impact of the bots was subterranean and corrosive,” Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, told McClatchy in an interview. “The distribution channels were being flooded with this information. . . . We perhaps underestimated the strategy of pushing fake news out through social media and how it impacted the race.”
Donna Brazile, the former interim director of the DNC, said that neither the party committee nor the Clinton campaign had used bots to widen the reach of their anti-Trump messages.
At least one of the congressional committees investigating the Russian meddling is looking into the bots.
The Senate Intelligence Committee “intends to look actively at ‘fake’ news and the ways that Russian bots and trolls were used to influence the election,” said Rachel Cohen, a spokeswoman for Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the panel’s ranking Democrat.
So let’s just head on back to reality here for a second.
It is not illegal to support Trump on the internet.
In fact, would not have been illegal if Alex Jones and Breitbart had literally been paid in gold bars by Putin himself to support Trump on the internet.
It is not illegal for Russia to run bots on the internet which push a political agenda.
This is fine.
None of what they are talking about is in any way close to being illegal, or even weird – even if the very worst of it is true.
Look at what George Soros does in every country, operating NGOs which seek to undermine and even overthrow elected governments. That is – at least the former thing is – legal.
American intelligence agencies did the Arab Spring protests using Twitter to influence the actions of mobs of Arab rioters. There is no evidence that this was illegal. They certainly haven’t been charged with anything, even though they’ve admitted to having done it.
This narrative they are pushing here – saying “maybe it was illegal for right wing news sites to publish articles supporting Donald Trump” shows how absolutely insane this anti-Russia, anti-Trump conspiracy theory has gotten.
A former George W. Bush ethics advisor accused Jones and Breitbart of “treason” on Twitter in response to the above report (same guy who wrote an NYT op-ed calling for Jeff Sessions to resign over talking to the Russian ambassador).
FBI uncovering evidence of treason. There is no other word for it.https://t.co/JLY7KZfQIY
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) March 23, 2017
What does that even mean?
It’s treason to… post news stories supporting Donald Trump that are then picked up and spread by alleged Russian bots?
And… even if you were paid by Russia to work with their bot program – wouldn’t that just be doing business? It is not illegal to be hired by a foreign government to do something.
And I mean – just to state the obvious here – the ADL is absolutely an Israeli front corporation, spreading fake news – such as that Donald Trump-supporting Neo-Nazis were doing bomb threats which turned out to be the work of an Israeli Jew – for the express purpose of interfering with American politics.
Jews are the original purveyors of fake news, and have had the market on lock for decades.
And that isn’t even illegal. I think they’ve clearly violated their 501(c)(3) status, by engaging in partisan politics blatantly, but I don’t think that they’ve violated any foreign agents acts. It wasn’t even illegal for them to spread fake news saying that the bomb hoaxes were done by Trump supporters. That is freedom of speech. It is not against the law to lie.
Obviously, I do think they are doing things which are illegal. I think that it is almost certain that they were aware of the fact that a Jew was behind the bomb hoax calls, and it is quite possible they were working with him directly. I also think that their harassment of people engaging in protected speech amounts to a type of conspiracy to violate First Amendment rights in a way that is almost certainly felonious.
But Jews calling someone a criminal for spreading news items on behalf of a foreign government – that is totally insane.
Breitbart isn’t even fake news, and Infowars is only maybe 5-10% fake news. But again, even talking about if they are fake news or not plays into this stupid narrative that lying is illegal.