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Mueller report sparked an increase in Russian misinformation

In this image, Robert Mueller listens with his fingers steepled in front of him.
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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