It turns out that everyone, and we mean everyone, has been duped by a Russian troll account on Twitter at one point or another.
Recode has announced the results of a study they ran with the help of Meltwater, a media intelligence company, and they show that no news outlet or politician can be completely sure that the tweets they read are genuine.
The study examined Twitter accounts and news sites over the last two years, and cross-referenced them with a list of 2,752 troll accounts released by Congress. Every one of those accounts has been tied to Kremlin-supported troll farms, and the twist is that many of those accounts have been retweeted and cited by news organizations like The Washington Post. It’s common practice for just about any news outlet to use tweets as evidence of online reactions to news, and thus it was all too easy for troll accounts posing as the “man on the street” to sneak into articles all over the internet.
Recode says WaPo, Vox, The Miami Herald, The Daily Caller, BuzzFeed, CBS and even fringe right-wing “news” companies like InfoWars have all had articles embedded with tweets from these fraudulent accounts. It also listed politicians (including Donald Trump, who recently had his Twitter account briefly deleted) as having retweeted some of the accounts.
The news comes in the midst of a congressional investigation into the extent of Russian tampering in the 2016 election. Hearings continue to be held, like the one pictured above, with tech companies having to explore just how many Russian accounts are on their websites. Facebook and Twitter are the most notable, as hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on advertising on those sites by these Russian troll farms.
Twitter has resolved to label all political ads in the future, and to keep a database of the accounts paying for them.