Forget Russia’s Twitter Trolls—America’s Censorious Officials Are a Bigger Threat
After years of hyperventilating over the alleged perils to American democracy posed by foreign shitposts, it looks like Moscow’s social media campaign to influence U.S. elections accomplished little, say researchers.
That is, Russian tweets had little effect, unless you count the boost it gave to the careers of pundits bloviating about the supposed vulnerability of our political system. In fact, with this study dropping in the midst of competing revelations about political shenanigans, it appears the government that meddled the most in American politics is the one based in Washington, D.C.
As reported by Reason‘s Robby Soave, New York University’s Center for Social Media and Politics looked into the impact of Russia’s social media campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election. The results, published in Nature Communications, suggest Vladimir Putin didn’t get much bang for his rubles.
“Taking our analyses together, it would appear unlikely that the Russian foreign influence campaign on Twitter could have had much more than a relatively minor influence on individual-level attitudes and voting behavior,” wrote authors Gregory Eady (University of Copenhagen), Tom Paskhalis (Trinity College, Dublin), Jan Zilinsky (Technical University of Munich), Richard Bonneau, Jonathan Nagler, and Joshua A. Tucker (all of New York University). “We did not detect any meaningful relationships between exposure to posts from Russian foreign influence accounts and changes in respondents’ attitudes on the issues, political polarization, or voting behavior.”
Or maybe Putin was happy with the results. There’s always been a hint that the social media campaign was mostly an inexpensive means for Russia’s strongman to demonstrate his country could still tweak America’s tail decades after the collapse of the Soviet empire. The frenzy of high-profile finger-pointing into which it sent U.S. politicians and talking heads certainly met that standard.
“Foreign influence campaigns may also succeed through second-order effects: those effects that are achieved by provoking a domestic reaction to the intervention itself,” the authors note of this point. “Russia’s foreign influence campaign on social media may have had its largest effects by convincing Americans that its campaign was successful.”
Interestingly, this study appears amidst revelations that the U.S. government itself has been doing a lot of meddling in domestic politics. The Twitter Files published by
Article from Reason.com