Mar 1, 2018

Report: Russian social media interference targeted U.S. energy policy

DAPL protesters in New York. Photo: Kena Betancur / AFP / Getty Images

A congressional staff report from the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology indicates that the Russian-backed propaganda group, the Internet Research Agency that was charged in the Mueller probe, worked on social media platforms to influence energy policy in the U.S., according to the WSJ.

What happened: IRA staffers posted photos and messages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram 9,000 times between 2015 and 2017 to encourage protests of pipeline construction in the U.S., abandoning fossil fuels use, and worked to elevate climate change disputes and controversies. It is not clear that the campaign had any influence on U.S. energy policy and many of the posts were shared by “a handful of followers,” per the WSJ.

  • Facebook and Twitter said they took down the IRA accounts last year because they violated their policies.
  • The report is based on data supplied by Facebook and Twitter, the WSJ reports.

Russia context: Chairman of the House Science Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith, told the WSJ: “To the extent that America produces more energy of any kind, it guarantees Russia more competition…Russia wants to reduce competition from the United States.”

  • "Russia has responded to the growth of American oil production with an unprecedented deal to cut its oil production in coordination with other big exporters, an effort to cap supply and stabilize plunging prices," the WSJ's Georgia Wells Timothy Puko write.
  • The Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. declined comment to the WSJ but sent previous comments from Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denying claims of Russia using social media to sow discord in the U.S.

Go deeper: Mueller indicts 13 Russians and 3 Russian entities, including the IRA

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A trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

Stocks fell more than 4% on Thursday, extending the market’s worst week since the financial crisis in 2008 following a spike in coronavirus cases around the world.

The big picture: All three indices closed in correction territory on Thursday, down over 10% from their recent record-highs amid a global market rout.

Coronavirus updates: California monitors 8,400 potential cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

33 people in California have tested positive for the coronavirus, and health officials are monitoring 8,400 people who have recently returned from "points of concern," Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 82,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica, and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

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Watchdog opens probe into VA secretary over handling of sexual assault claim

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on Fox Business Network’s "The Evening Edit" on Jan. 7. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

The Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General Michael Missal said Thursday he had opened an investigation into VA Secretary Robert Wilkie after lawmakers demanded an inquiry into his handling of a sexual misconduct report, the Washington Post reports.

Context: Wilkie allegedly "worked to discredit" the credibility of Democratic aide and veteran Andrea Goldstein after she reported last fall "that a man groped and propositioned her in the main lobby of the agency's D.C. Medical Center," a senior VA official told the Post.