Russia Sought to Use Social Media to Influence E.U. Vote, Report Finds

A misinformation campaign by groups linked to Russia tried to depress turnout in last month’s parliamentary elections, a European Commission review said.

Comments: 69

  1. My wife sister who is an Evangelical said to my wife who is a Catholic that there is no proof that Russia tried to influence the last presidential vote. Wow!

  2. Of course they tried, as the US is trying to influence the elections of many countries around the World. It is quite a standard practice. We often hear the West- back candidate vs nationalist candidate. What does it mean? It means that one candidate is favored by the West, and the West supports him and trying to do whatever it is possible to get this candidate elected vs candidate who has domestic support but by some reason not to likening to the West.

  3. @Tonjo - Your sister-in-law needs to read Volume II of the Mueller Report. And then, perhaps have the concept of 'proof' explained to her. Proof is not the same thing as 'feeling', nor 'belief'. As an evangelical adherent, this will be very difficult for her to grasp. Share with her that the law does not rest on feelings nor beliefs but on facts - which are not interpretations but representations. You'll have a whole new variety of things to talk about by Thanksgiving dinner!

  4. @Tonjo You're right, how dare she be skeptical and demand to see concrete evidence! You're only supposed to be that skeptical with Iran, because that's politically convenient right? "European officials did not provide details about what groups in Russia or elsewhere were behind the campaigns. The report also stopped short of assessing whether the efforts had an impact on how people voted, although turnout in the elections reached a 25-year high. Instead, the report largely cited the findings of outside researchers who had been tracking the European elections." Look at all the evidence we don't actually present. But believe us anyway because we have unverified "outside researchers" who agree with our beliefs.

  5. This story is no surprise. For the foreseeable future, Russia will continue to meddle in democratic elections worldwide, especially should those democracies have influence on Putin and his oligarchs's hold on power. And it's only going to get worse. As recent stories and editorials attest, we are now entering the era of "deep fakes." Russia's so-called "Internet Research Agency" will be able to create videos and audio recordings that seem so realistic that most people won't be able to tell truth from fiction. And then, if experts show they're fake, Russia will propagate further disinformation claiming that such evidence was created by the "deep state." There are two solutions to this. First, as countries like Finland and Estonia know (democracies neighboring Russia), democratic nations must invest in educating people on media literacy and the basics of rhetoric and logical arguments. And that needs to start with young children. Second, the world needs to impose further economic sanctions on Russia. Russia is a hostile nation, and should be treated as such. Of course, this requires cooperation from the international community, which is something President Trump regularly insults and denigrates while he cozies up to President Putin.

  6. @jrinsc, there needs to be an equivalent service to authentication like when you log onto websites for digital content like pics, videos and audio. These signatures ensure only the original and authentic content is distributed.

  7. Voting is compulsory in Australia and those entitled to vote consider it a civic duty and a privilege. A fine is levied for not voting without a reasonable excuse. It's not socialist and it would minimize the effect of attempted voter turnout .suppression. Of course conditions to allow every voter to be able to vote, whether in person or by post, also need to exist.

  8. Meanwhile, back in the USA, Trump and the Republicans do absolutely nothing to secure our 2020 elections. Quite the opposite, Trump says he would accept foreign information on a competitor and would not report the foreign entity to our law enforcement. (I know. I know. He "backtracked" today, after he received heated criticism from everyone but the Republican party Of course anyone who believes his current "backtrack" is ignoring the fact that he is untruthful and untrustworthy to the core.

  9. Of course, Twitter and Google did not respond. If they were to block false news and lies, they would first have to block all of Trump's posts. There will additionally be no new, effective laws enacted by Europe or the US. It's not politically correct to stand up for truth. It costs time and money and makes you hated by the majority.

  10. Europeans, too, are prone/to the Putin fibbing drone/Once it's launched/it misinforms/many of the voter's norms/Europe ought to tell that thug/that he needs to pull the plug.

  11. In my neck of the woods, the right has been launching these hysterical protest to attack their ‘opponents.’ I guess they want to entrenched racist and sexism, create an unassailable wealth inequality. They also seem to want to increased the plastic garbage, and move way way faster toward human created mass extinction and global warming. I believe that’s maintaining the status quo, but out in the open about it. Metaphorically, that’s like the average person supporting a war against Iran - is it Iran now? - and then finding that they have to fight in it. Getting some body part blown off and ... a deeper more darker misery sets in. Mankind has done this a gazillion times. I know those Christian dudes keep saying that this time it will be different. I think it will be different, I think it will be way way worse than last time.

  12. @Morgan "I guess they want to entrenched [sic] racist and sexism, create an unassailable wealth inequality" Pretty sure the "unassailable wealth inequality" part of that was taken care of by neoliberal policies of politicians championing "diversity", even in Canada.

  13. Treat reports coming out the EU, with a degree of scepticism. Low turnout is entirely due to disillusionment with the way the EU is run. The MEP’s elected to the EU Parliament has no real power, policy and power is with the Commission. Commissioners being appointed by heads of member states. These unelected bureaucrats are, the main source of frustration with the EU’s 500m population. Key positions generally divided up between France, Germany and other French language countries, Belgium and Luxembourg. French President Macron is leading a campaign to restrict the Internet in Europe. The recent Christchurch massacre, following the murder of 50 Muslim’s is being cited as why further restrictions are required. France also muscled through new EU copyright laws, using their Ambassador in Germany to lobby key politicians. Despite huge opposition and a petition signed by over 500,000, controversial clauses where successfully approved. There was no discussion at all, in the British Parliament or press until after this law was approved. Nothing to do with Brexit, a deliberate policy gradually, to place more and more restrictions of EU citizens, access to the Internet. This follows on from EU GDPR privacy laws, introduced in May 2018. Several Northern EU countries are becoming more authoritarian, hence the reluctance to ban Huawei.

  14. @England Calling The EU authorities didn't do any of the research themselves. This "report" does not contain any facts or research conducted by government authorities. It is merely the selective curation of conclusions and impressions that unverified independent "researchers" have done on their own. Fact-wise, the EU vote turnout was highest it's ever been in 25 years. Whatever social media interference occurred didn't stop massive numbers of people turning out to vote, and putting the same people in charge.

  15. As with Russiagate in the U.S., no details (i.e. evidence) are provided. Until they are, no critically thinking person should take this report seriously. It should be regarded as yet another anti-Russia smear tactic.

  16. @Rob: Well, there's no evidence for regarding it as a false smear campaign, either. Better take it as a plausible "preliminary review" without hard evidence given, and keep an open mind.

  17. Poor Russia. They couldn't hurt a fly, being such a weak and useless country. Right?

  18. McConnell is BLOCKING all attempts to protect America’s elections. He’s not FIT to remain in Congress. He’s UNAmerican and an embarrassment to the values and principles of our great nation. VOTE HIM OUT!!

  19. The meddling thing is just stupid. It’s an increasingly globalized world, not accepting any outside voice creates nationalism and egoism, reinforcement of incorrect ideas from within. Besides, how would you call a post from a French guy who analyzed why who is a bad idea and who is a good idea. If Americans gets convinced then its meddling? Or are we saying only Americans can talk about their politics and the world has to be mouth shut on it?

  20. @Steve: The problem is when foreign intelligence agencies create fake accounts to look like American citizens putting forward their views. I think there would be nothing wrong with a Russian, or for that matter, a Russian government agency, publishing material about why they like Trump, and encouraging Americans to vote for him. (Actually, I'm not sure about that, there might be some diplomatic conventions involved in the case of a government agency addressing the American people about our elections.) But that wasn't the problem with the Russian efforts in favor of Trump's election, it was that they involved secrecy and deception. It was the data theft, and all the fake accounts, actually specifically encouraging existing "incorrect ideas from within."

  21. Russia are the hypocrites arresting protesters by the hundreds for free speech and jailing journalists and not allowing free speech on the internet. To then whine about how they aren't allowed to have a say in our political process--it's just a bit too much.

  22. Breaking News. Trump conspired with the russians to influence the european elections, and has obstructed european investigations. Nadler and pelosi to launch investigation.

  23. How interesting, and what a disgrace it is, that Putin's Russia, while exploiting it's people by his oligo-kleptocracy, tries to interfere in the internal affairs of other, usually democratic, countries...to justify unpopular actions at home, with a populace purposedly distracted and disinformed. By Mueller's report, there is not a scintilla of doubt that Putin escalated his malicious cyberattacks to destroy Ms Clinton (as she denounced his stealing the Russian election)... and give the presidency to a most vulgar bully, and superb demagogue, Donald J. Trump. This, via an unregulated Social Media ready and willing to take the money (for Russia's fake news, inciting internal divisions in the U.S.)...and ask questions later, when prompted by justice's long arm. And now, it seems, is Europe's turn to pay the consequences of rabid Putin, a rascal in whom Trump placed his trust...while disregarding the warnings from his own intelligentsia. Given the 'valuable' help Putin gave Trump, it seems befitting that Trump is ready and willing to receive any foreign information to help him re-assault the presidency next year. Europe, beware!

  24. Let me guess- they are favoring alt right candidates like Boris Johnson who Bannon supports?

  25. @DGH Johnson didn't run for the European Parliament which was what these recent Euroelections were about. Boris is going for leadership of the (currently) governing Conservative party. If he wins, he becomes Prime Minister automatically and, in theory remains that until the next general election in 2022. Johnson is being elected by the registered members of the Conservative party - about 100,000 in number - not the people of the UK. Since most of these are 60 year+ retirees, the penetration of social media is pretty low. Remember that in the UK the primary target of a person's vote is the party, not the individual. Unlike the US where the individual who is elected. That's it in summary, but it's actually a bit more complicated.

  26. I think Europe and America finds their favorite 'escape goat'. It is much more convenient to blame Russia for distrust to the Democratic Government, rather than admit that sometimes the Government even democratically elected doesn't act in the interest of all people, and even in the Democratic societies more and more people feel like their wishes are ignored. To blame Russians is so convenient on so many levels. You don't need to figure out what is wrong with your society, because despite the fact that it is your people who are running for office on the far-right or the far-left platform (use whatever you need at the particular moment) and it is your people who voted, it is all Russians fault who have this magic flute that enchants people of Democratic country. The ability to censor Internet for sake of the unity of the society is an additional bonus. It is kind of pathetic to see the Democratic countries who demand freedom of speech from the other countries, at the same time lament free discussion of 'politically' divisive issues in the Internet.

  27. @yulia Discussion is different than false information for an agenda. It doesn’t help that we have entire news agencies inventing alternate facts that have built the wedge for this information to gain traction. They will even feed off the propaganda and directly or indirectly promote it. Russia is playing off the folks that spread hate, race division and lie to achieve their associated agenda. Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro, Laura Ingram, etc. These people and these agencies by the nature of having no interest or moral conscious to the truth are the gateway for this propaganda. Ex-Fox News host says its reputation for racism is ‘for very good reason’ - Erin Durkin in New York How Russian Propaganda Spread From a Parody Website to Fox News - By NEIL MACFARQUHAR and ANDREW ROSSBACK JUNE 7, 2017

  28. @yulia: There is some truth to what you say. I should mention, in this country, it's more tactful to talk about "democratic government" with a small "d", when you are talking about the political system, so as not to create any confusion regarding the political party called the "Democrats" with a capital "D". Both the Republicans and Democrats participate in a democratic system of government. And to make it more confusing, it's a republican system, at the same time. It's a democratic republic, and the words are pretty arbitrarily used as names of the major parties.

  29. @Mathias Let me see that I understand you correctly. The US has "entire news agencies inventing alternate facts that have built the wedge for this information to gain traction", but yet you don't want to figure out why, you rather blame the Russians. My question is why? Why instead of trying to figure out why you have such people as "Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro, Laura Ingram, etc. " who are popular in the US with American people, you prefer to blame Russians? Is it because it much easy and convenient to blame a foreign country, rather than figure out what is wrong with yours? You just illustrate my point perfectly.

  30. Either do something like stop using Russian Oil or Like Trump say its awesome and welcome it! Talking does not solve any issue that I learned!

  31. Problem: unwanted interference in the political processes through social media platforms. Solution: lay off social media altogether. You don't need it. Nobody needs it.

  32. If they are favoring a candidate I wonder how many they approached.

  33. Russia should show the energy they use in meddling in elections all over the world and focus it's effort to become enrolled in the United Nations. If Russia would comply to simple demands that are not egregious I see it as a member with the right conditions being met. I'm sure Donald Trump can compose a deal....

  34. @George...It is a sad commentary on the informedness of some Americans that they would not know that Russia IS "enrolled" in the United Nations. In fact, they are a permanent member of the Security Council.

  35. Trump will get all the help he needs from Russia as he is Putin's puppet compromised and McCONNEL is part of this corrupt administration including Kushner all cashing in and TRump must remain in office . Even if Trump loses Barr will void the election based on foreign fraud and issue an executive order Trump will be president until it can be sorted out and that may take 4 years.

  36. I am sure Facebook is pledging to take more effort, do better, and take this seriously... they may even hire more outsourced firms to cheaply try and put a band aid on some of the more obvious misinformation. I would have to assume, for some people, acquiring wealth or power has no limit, even if it puts the underlying structure that permits their free expression and wealth at risk.

  37. It’s not meddling. I meddle when I tell my neighbor how to raise her kids. (I don’t actually do that.) it’s not interference, either. It’s cyberwar on our nation. The government of a hostile foreign power - Russia - has been launching and continues to launch systematic cyberattacks on our Republic. The goal is to obscure facts and truth; create chaos; incite division, distrust and hatred; and set the stage for eventual societal and national collapse. Other bad actors are sure to join Russia. Rogues, North Korea, maybe Saudi Arabia and China...it’s open season. Trump invited Russia to help him in 2016, with sanctions relief as the mutually understood quid pro quo, and just this week invited any foreign power looking for favorable treatment to help him win in 2020. His backtracking today is a joke. The other foreign actors certainly got his message. The armaments in this cyberwar are becoming alarmingly more effective, as this article and other comments point out. Deep Fake videos will make knowing what’s real ever harder to discern. Social media platforms put profits above the destruction they enable. In North Carolina in 2016, a key blue/Democratic district experienced unprecedented and unique problems matching voters with voter rolls. Concerns the voter rolls were hacked mounted, but election officials refused to conduct a serious analysis. Bottom line: voter rolls are very vulnerable to hacking and manipulation. The GOP refuses to defend us. Why?

  38. @Julie B You ask why the GOP refuses to defend us. It's obvious. They share the same goals with the Russians, and without Russian help, they will lose. Anyone who believes that Russian interference did not make a difference in 2016 is hopelessly naive. Read Kathleen Hall Jamieson's "Cyber War" for an answer to your question.

  39. @Julie B...Why did Obama refuse to defend us? He was told by our IT gurus Brennan, Clapper and Comey that Russia was interfering in the election. That was April, 2016. April, 2016. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

  40. This reminds me of something...

  41. Elizabeth Warren is right. We need to break up the social media companies. They have shown over and over that money outranks truth on all their platforms.

  42. @KKnorp How does breaking up these companies help the truth? There would be more but smaller companies, just as susceptible as the giant ones now.

  43. Until Putin personally pays dearly for his aggression and devious schemes, he will continue to gleefully trounce on democratic values across the globe. Once Putin is removed, the West can try to strike an understanding with his successor.

  44. "There is the legal concept of “Volksverhetzung,” the incitement to hatred: Anybody who denigrates an individual or a group based on their ethnicity or religion, or anybody who tries to rouse hatred or promotes violence against such a group or an individual, could face a sentence of up to five years in prison." NYT Anna Sauerbrey, How Germany Deals With Neo nazis. Sounds like a good plan.

  45. This is brazen warfare and it is only going to get worse. Unfortunately, Trump, Bannon, the Mercer and Adelson families might as well be selling arms to the enemy. “The destruction of the administrative state” was just one of many goals this right wing fascist party has been able to check off their list in America. Stirring up white nationalist sentiment, breaking up Nato and forging alliances with people like Le Pen, Orban and Putin is only the beginning.

  46. European Commission: “... continued and sustained disinformation activity by Russian sources ...” Mueller: A Russian effort that was "sweeping and systematic" on behalf of Trump, said Mueller. Trump: A hoax and a witch hunt. The FBI spied on me. If Russia helps me again I'll take it, and I won't tell the FBI. Bad actors are coopting the algorithms and monopoly market power of Google and Facebook in order to sabotage our democratic elections.

  47. It is so pitiful that Russia, which apparently cannot create or produce anything the world takes interest in except oil, seeks to drag other countries down to its level by distorting their elections. Authoritarianism is their biggest export.

  48. "Russia linked groups AND those favoring far right policies" I'd call the latter citizens and the former is quite vague. Then the second to last paragraphs says one of the problems is the content is not necessarily incorrect making it harder to delete. Just sounds like an attempt to conflate legitimate expression by actual citizens with Russian interference.

  49. Is it unrealistic to ask why governments can't legislate to shut down the major players in social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for the month preceding national elections. This would impose suffering on private advertising income rather than democracy.

  50. @ahenryr...If your idea of democrazy would be furthered by a month long muzzling of social media, why not strengthen democrazy even further by shutting down TV, newspapers, snail mail or any other form of human interaction that could be conceived of as disinformation dissemination by the hegemonic State. For that matter, give democrazy a real boost by extending the ONE month moratorium to an EVERY month moratorium. The resultant loss of private advertising $$$ is a small price to pay for democrazy.

  51. Those Russians seem to be losing their touch. The Turnout in the European Elections was the highest ever. Please remember it is the European Commission that is under siege because it is an anti-democratic institution and it is expected that Analysis paid for by Commission will find what the Commission wants.

  52. The main providers of disinformation are the British government founded Integrity Initiative and related NATO-loving institutions. It looks like the were an important source of this report too. It is a tendency we see everywhere. Just look at all the authentic sources blocked by Twitter, Facebook and Paypal. Disinformation is used as an excuse to spread disinformation.

  53. @Wim Roffel Paypal?

  54. Disinformation it's certainly a problem. The other problem this article points out is that social media has democratized political discourse. And the truth still holds that democracy is messy.

  55. Bad actors always use 'disinformation' to support their ends. One would think it would occur to them (in this case Putin's Russia or right wing zealots) that if you have to lie all the time to support your goals, maybe there is something wrong with your goals.

  56. So much for technology making our lives simpler, easier and better. There is even more junk to manage now than ever.

  57. How about some real meddling and breathtaking hypocrisy? Pompeo very publicly announces that the US will use all available means to prevent Jeremy Corbyn's election.

  58. A number of bills that could begin to address the Russian cyberwar collect dust somewhere in the Senate, where ever McConnell has hidden them away. Trump denies and deflects. We are under attack. Rome burns while the two Nero's play their fiddles and stuff their bank accounts.

  59. The only way to stop this is to cripple financial activities of the Russian Oligarchy.

  60. The Russians seem to have a hard time finding how to make constructive and creative use of their time. Maybe this country should launch a campaign of sending them toys to play with - to keep them occupied - so they don't have go around interfering with others.

  61. Can we simply admit that we're powerless to stop disinformation? It isn't just social media. It's TV "news", and a strong bent toward extreme left or right wing politics in the press, as well. Rumors are propagated and travel before they're proven incorrect. We can't keep up with the liars because there are too many of them. Let's teach our children to think for themselves, instead of allowing the brainwashing that surrounds us to be accepted. Why not assume that half of what we read and hear is baloney? It isn't cynical. It's reality.

  62. Russian interference in elections of other countries seems to be spreading. How do we stop that? Is Trump sending the wrong message by having stood in Helsinki and denied his own intelligence officials and said he believed Putin? Trump is dangerous for our Democracy and dangerous for democracies all over the world. How do we get Trump to stop speaking out against his own intelligence officials? How do we save the integrity of our own Democracy and democratic nations in Europe and around the world?

  63. The Russian government is PURE EVIL!

  64. Another key question is: how much assistance did Neil Farage and his Brexit Party receive from his good friend Putin. Also, Facebook hasn’t done anything seriously to offset misinformation distribution. Yet, it’s about to roll out a cryptocurrency? Social media and digital companies need to be regulated.

  65. @Ted...For sure, regulation is necessary. The US should emulate its friends and allies, such as China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia or Iran, in their successful regulation of out of control digital companies and social media. There should be one standard for the veracity of information, and it needs to be mandated by the all-knowing State. To paraphrase from a different existential crisis, Freedom Speech is not a suicide pact.

  66. The European elections are a dress rehearsal for the American ones. Where are the honest Republicans willing to call this out and act on behalf of all Americans, not just the political and financial enablers, both domestic and foreign? Behind the cute kitties on Facebook, etc., there are lions roaring, waiting to be released and wreak havoc. The time to act was four or five years ago, but now is better than never.

  67. With all of this hand wringing about the existential threat that "Russia and others" pose on social media, it is deliciously ironic that one of the "Most Popular" articles listed at the bottom right of this article carries the headline "U.S. Escalate Online Attacks on Russia's Power Grid"...Every country and multi-national organization with a web connection is busily conducting old fashioned propaganda and worse assaults on every other country and MNO...That's why the web was invented in the first place [thanks, Al]...It's Spy vs Spy on a grand global scale...Remember Obama's embarrassment when he had to apologize to Angela for bugging her phone? North Korea hacking Sony? Somebody hacking Iran's nuke prog? China going full-bore facial recognition of all of its "citizens"? The ultimate Disinformation Campaign is that everybody is claiming they are victims and not perpetrators. Meanwhile, amazon pop-ups blanket The Times.

  68. Surprised, are we?

  69. Maybe we should be proactive and fight the Russians on their own turf: how about deploying western hackers to rig the next RUSSIAN elections, and get Putin kicked out of office? We’ve had enough of this poisonous KGB troll ruining our democracy and freedom.