By Jonathon Morgan and Ryan Fox
Mr. Morgan and Mr. Fox run a cybersecurity company.
Nov. 6, 2018
CreditCreditIllustration by Jeffrey Henson Scales, photographs by Matt Anderson Photography/Moment and Blend Images-Hill Street Studios/Brand X Pictures, via Getty Images
“Since the 2016 United States presidential election, which Russian operatives influenced through a coordinated campaign of disinformation on social media, platforms like Twitter and Facebook have taken steps to address the problem. Thousands of “sock puppet” personas with hundreds of thousands of followers have been taken down on Facebook, for example, and cannot easily be rebuilt. Twitter has reduced the risk that propaganda is spread through automated accounts, or bots.
Such efforts may be helping. The consensus among researchers monitoring the 2018 midterm elections is that there has been less of the specific sort of interference the Russians engaged in two years ago, when they attempted to aggravate social tensions in the United States and foster distrust of our democratic institutions.
But an analysis by Kris Shaffer, a senior analyst for our cybersecurity company, suggests that while these measures may have rendered some of the Russian tactics of 2016 less effective, they haven’t fully stopped Russian influence operations. In many instances, they seem to have merely caused Russia to shift or develop new tactics.
Indeed, our company is currently detecting more overall activity in real time from continuing Russian online influence operations targeting the midterm elections than has been disclosed by social media platforms or detected by researchers during the same period before the election in 2016.”