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Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Two outside research groups used data obtained from Silicon Valley giants by the Senate Intelligence Committee to paint a sweeping picture of Russia’s online disinformation efforts both before and after the 2016 presidential election in reports released Monday.

Why it matters: "We should certainly expect to see recruitment, manipulation, and influence attempts targeting the 2020 election, including the inauthentic amplification of otherwise legitimate American narratives," said researchers from New Knowledge in the report they provided to the panel.

The groups’ findings bolster the public’s understanding of the Russian campaign and provide new details on how it operated:

  • The Internet Research Agency troll farm focused much of its attention on black audiences, creating "an expansive cross-platform media mirage targeting the Black community, which shared and cross-promoted authentic Black media to create an immersive influence ecosystem," per the New Knowledge report. The group’s cultivation of sometimes-unsuspecting on-the-ground collaborators was "substantially more pronounced on Black-targeted accounts."
  • It engaged in voter suppression. New Knowledge said that "the suppression narratives were targeted almost exclusively at the Black community on Instagram and Facebook" in the lead-up to the 2016 election. The IRA simultaneously targeted right-leaning audiences with content raising fears of voter fraud.
  • The group's efforts didn't slow down after they became clear to the public. "Surprisingly, these campaigns did not stop once Russia's IRA was caught interfering in the 2016 election. Engagement rates increased and covered a widening range of public policy issues, national security issues, and issues pertinent to younger voters," said researchers from Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project.

The researchers' findings don't necessarily represent those of the Intelligence Committee, which is in the midst of a lengthy investigation into Russian interference.

The big picture: The Oxford researchers also highlighted the ways in which Facebook, Google and Twitter had made it difficult for the Senate panel and researchers to study the campaign.

  • New Knowledge added they expect Russian efforts to use smaller social media platforms and messaging services as the 2020 election approaches.

What they're saying: Senate Intel Chair Richard Burr said in a statement, "This newly released data demonstrates how aggressively Russia sought to divide Americans by race, religion and ideology, and how the IRA actively worked to erode trust in our democratic institutions. Most troublingly, it shows that these activities have not stopped."

  • "This should stand as a wake up call to us all that none of us are immune from this threat, and it is time to get serious in addressing this challenge," said Senate Intel Vice Chairman Mark Warner in a statement. "That is going to require some much-needed and long-overdue guardrails when it comes to social media."

Read the two reports in full:

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

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John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”