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With only a few days left before the November 8 midterm election, Twitter has been boasting about its efforts against election interference by referencing a group tied with openly interfering in Alabama's 2017 U.S. Senate special election.
Yoel Roth, Twitter's Head of Safety & Integrity, recently took to the platform to emphasize his company's efforts to fight disinformation in the upcoming election.
We’re staying vigilant against attempts to manipulate conversations about the 2022 US midterms. Read on for independent analysis of our teams’ work 👇 https://t.co/O2MFNqCTY2— Yoel Roth (@yoyoel) November 2, 2022
The researcher referenced by Roth, Renee DiResta, has ties to an organization known for its efforts to impact a high-profile Alabama election.
According to a report obtained by the New York Times, a democratic group carried out a secret project in Alabama's 2017 Senate race to demonstrate the influence foreign governments can have on American elections through social media.
"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 report says.
The operators created multiple Facebook and Twitter pages in which they posed as conservative Alabamians in an attempt to divide support for then-Republican U.S. Senate nominee Roy Moore. The operators did so by linking the Moore campaign to thousands of Russian accounts that began to follow Moore on Twitter.
Moore eventually lost the election to Democratic candidate Doug Jones.
The report explicitly states that it "experimented with many of the tactics now understood to have influenced the 2016 elections."
The report does not say whether the project purchased the Russian bot Twitter accounts that suddenly began to follow Moore. But it takes credit for "radicalizing Democrats with a Russian bot scandal."
The fake Russian bots drew national attention from prolific news sites such as the New York Post.
While the fake accounts did not directly campaign for Jones, they openly supported a write-in candidate at the time, Mac Watson.
The 2018 project heavily involved Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of the research firm New Knowledge.
Morgan's involvement with the project came to light after New Knowledge released a report on Russian disinformation to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.
The recently published study by Election Integrity Partnership lists DiResta as a researcher. DiResta is the current director of research at New Knowledge.
The new project, with the same purported goal as the 2018 project, observes "inauthentic" social media users and their ability to influence U.S. elections. However, it is unclear whether this group or its members were responsible for creating these accounts.
Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, replied to Roth, reemphasizing the platform's dedication to election integrity.
Talked to civil society leaders @JGreenblattADL, @YaelEisenstat, @rashadrobinson, @JGo4Justice, @normanlschen, @DerrickNAACP, @TheBushCenter Ken Hersch & @SindyBenavides about how Twitter will continue to combat hate & harassment & enforce its election integrity policies— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 2, 2022
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