Russian Influences on American Media

By Roy Kim

According to the report by the CIA, FBI, and NSA in January 2017, there had been Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Between January 2015 and August 2017, a total of 50,258 Twitter accounts were identified as Russian bots -- fake accounts to share false information to the internet. These bots created at least 3.8 million tweets, which is about 19% of the total tweets on the 2016 election. 80% of the Russian bots were programmed to support Donald Trump.

Russia’s goal was to lower America’s confidence in their electoral system and to belittle Hillary Clinton. One possibility Russia used social media to support Donald Trump was Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, and his contempt for Hillary Clinton. Back when riots took place in Moscow during the announcement of Putin’s candidacy for Russia’s president in March 2012, the Kremlin accused the Secretary of State -- Hillary Clinton -- of encouraging the incident.

In the recent 2020 U.S. presidential election, Russia once again supported Donald Trump over Joe Biden, but Facebook took down three botnets spreading false information at the end of August 2020. However, Russia continued to spread false information about both Joe Biden and Donald Trump, in order to further divide Americans.

These Russian bots should not be underestimated, as they are powerful in terms of speed and quantity. Since bots are programmed, they spread fake information quicker than real news, meaning they can drown social media with false news to hide real information. Russian interference through the spread of misinformation continues to be a threat today towards Americans, raising uncertainty and lowering confidence in the U.S. election system.