Photo: Ann Heisenfelt/Getty Images

Russian bots and trolls immediately capitalized on the Mueller report, according to research from SafeGuard Cyber.

Why it matters: Russia's social media efforts are often incorrectly thought of as purely election interference. They're actually a year-in, year-out slog aiming to capitalize on any major news story to fracture the U.S. public.

Details: SafeGuard maintains a database of 600,000 "bad actors" — a mix of automated accounts (bots) and manually controlled accounts (trolls). SafeGuard attributes many, not all, to Russia.

  • Russian bots and trolls increased their rate of posting by 286% on April 16, the day Mueller's report was released, and the number of unique accounts posting increased by 48%.
  • It's pretty clear what they were talking about. The top 5 hashtags were #mueller, #muellerreport, #trump, #barr, and #russia, with the rate of #muller increasing more than 50-fold.

What they're saying: "The goal here is to get out the content with so much force that getting one or two retweets a time will reach a huge audience," said George Kamide, director at SafeGuard.

  • "We didn't just see an increase in activity, we saw an increase in the potency of the accounts used," he said.
  • In the days leading up to the report, the average account the company classifies as Russian had 13,500 followers. After the report was released, that number spiked to 18,600.

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Updated 46 mins ago - World

China says U.S. is "endangering peace" with high-level visit to Taiwan

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar during a June briefing in Washington, DC. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Tuesday night he will lead a delegation to Taiwan "in the coming days."

Why it matters: It's the highest-level visit by a U.S. cabinet official to Taiwan since 1979. Azar is also the first U.S. Cabinet member to visit the island state in six years. The visit has angered China, which views Taiwan as part of its territory. Chinese officials accused the U.S. Wednesday of "endangering peace" with the visit, AFP reports.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 a.m. ET: 18,543,662 — Total deaths: 700,714 — Total recoveries — 11,143,031Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 a.m. ET: 4,771,236 — Total deaths: 156,807 — Total recoveries: 1,528,979 — Total tests: 57,543,852Map.
  3. States: New York City health commissioner resigns in protest of De Blasio's coronavirus response — Local governments go to war over schools.
  4. Public health: 59% of Americans support nationwide 2-week stay-at-home order in NPR poll.
  5. Politics: Trump's national security adviser returns to work after coronavirus recovery Republicans push to expand small business loan program.
  6. Sports: Indy 500 to be held without fansRafael Nadal opts out of U.S. Open.
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At least 100 killed, 4,000 injured after massive explosion rocks Beirut

Photo: Anwar Amro/AFP via Getty Images

A major explosion has slammed central Beirut, Lebanon, damaging buildings as far as several miles away and injuring scores of people.

Driving the news: At least 100 people have been killed and over 4,000 injured in the blast — and the death toll is likely to rise, the Lebanese Red Cross said, per AP. Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the explosions occurred at a warehouse that had been storing 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate for the past six years.