Democratic operatives created thousands of Twitter accounts posing as Russian bots in order to boost Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in the October 2017 special election by linking his Republican opponent, Roy Moore, to Russian influence campaigns.
The operatives, who were funded by liberal billionaire Reid Hoffmann independently of Jones’s campaign, created more than a thousand Russian-language accounts that followed Moore’s Twitter account overnight, The New York Times reported Wednesday evening.
Hoffmann gave the operatives $100,000 for their project, which included creating fake conservative Facebook accounts to dissuade voters from supporting Moore, according to the Times.
“We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet,” the operatives recounted in an internal report obtained by the Times.
Media outlets — both in Alabama and nationally — fell for the ploy and amplified the false narrative last October.
Roy Moore just picked up a whole bunch of twitter followers. But they ain't from around here, comrade. pic.twitter.com/vJBPVxqWIW
— Matt Mitchell (@ALostrich) October 16, 2017
The Montgomery Advertiser, an Alabama affiliate of USA Today, was the first to run with the story. Brian Lyman, the reporter on that story, did not immediately return The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. Lyman’s story was quickly seized upon by national media outlets.
“Roy Moore flooded with fake Russian Twitter followers,” read the headline on a New York Post story, which cited the Advertiser.
Left-wing publication Mother Jones cited the same report in a story titled, “Russian Propagandists Are Pushing for Roy Moore to Win.” That report didn’t rely exclusively on the fake Twitter followers, citing Russian media’s favorable coverage of Moore.
The Washington Post focused its story on the fact that Moore blamed Democrats for the fake accounts.
Moore was mocked on Twitter at the time for blaming Democrats for the fake followers.
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