A disinformation campaign believed to be driven by foreign state actors is already targeting at least four prominent Democratic presidential candidates, Politico reports.
Based on data scraped from Twitter and other platforms and interviews with specialists, the campaign is aimed at Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
“The goal of the coordinated barrage appears to be undermining the nascent candidacies through the dissemination of memes, hashtags, misinformation and distortions of their positions,” Politico reported. “But the divisive nature of many of the posts also hints at a broader effort to sow discord and chaos within the Democratic presidential primary.”
The campaign is akin to the disinformation campaign targeting Hillary Clinton in 2016. The posts include “racially inflammatory memes” targeting the candidates. In one case, one false narrative claimed that Elizabeth Warren had a blackface doll in one of her videos.
“There are clear signs of a coordinated effort of undetermined size that shares similar characteristics with the computational propaganda attacks launched by online trolls at Russia’s Internet Research Agency in the 2016 presidential campaign, which special counsel Robert Mueller accused of aiming to undermine the political process and elevate Donald Trump,” Politico reported.
Watchdog group warns 2020 could be repeat of 2016:
“It looks like the 2020 presidential primary is going to be the next battleground to divide and confuse Americans,” said Brett Horvath, one of the founders of Guardians.ai, which seeks to protect from information warfare. “As it relates to information warfare in the 2020 cycle, we’re not on the verge of it — we’re already in the third inning.”
Guardians.ai identified a small cluster of main accounts and a larger number of accounts that amplify them. “This is the same core group of accounts the company first identified last year in a study as anchoring a wide-scale influence campaign in the 2018 elections,” Politico reported.
“We can conclusively state that a large group of suspicious accounts that were active in one of the largest influence operations of the 2018 cycle is now engaged in sustained and ongoing activity for the 2020 cycle,” Horvath said.