The Russians didn’t have to invent a means of disseminating fake news. The pipeline for delivery was already there, and similar fake news efforts had already proven it could be effective.
Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem.
Were these stories enough to elect Donald Trump? We don’t know, but considering the narrowness of the decision, it’s far more than simply possible.
Russia waged a campaign from the outset to affect the outcome of the American election. That effort included hacking American email servers, disseminating private information, commissioning and spreading propaganda. At a minimum.
And all the while, the Russian government and the Trump campaign were in regular communication. Considering the number of known connections between Trump, Manafort, Flynn, Page and Russia, and the ways in which all worked to undermine US positions relative to NATO, Ukraine, or Syria, it can’t be dismissed that there was not just cooperation, but a deal in place.
Was propaganda that the limit of Russia's actions?
Even in advance of the election, concerns were widespread that it would be easy to hack into the voting machines that were being used and Edward Snowden shared a video just before the election that showed hackers breaking into a voting machine using only a £24 memory card.
The evidence that Russia directly altered votes in the election seems to be currently limited to the results of statistical analysis—and the outcome from that analysis is anything but “undisputed.”
But considering everything we know that Russia did to sway the election, no one should be too quick to dismiss the possibility of more direct action out of hand.
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