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by WorldTribune Staff, December 21, 2018
Democratic operatives reportedly pulled off a scheme in which they created thousands of fake Russian social media accounts to follow U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore with the intent of giving the impression that the Kremlin was backing the Republican’s candidacy.
The scheme was funded by liberal billionaire and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and facilitated by former Obama-era official Mikey Dickerson, according to a report by The New York Times.
Moore lost the 2017 election for an Alabama Senate seat by 22,000 votes to now-Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat.
The scheme, which had a budget of $100,000, was carried out on Facebook and Twitter. It was revealed after the New York Times obtained an internal report detailing the secret project.
“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 internal report said. It also took credit for “radicalizing Democrats with a Russian bot scandal” after experimenting “with many of the tactics now understood to have influenced the 2016 elections.”
The effort attracted attention from local and national media, falsely suggesting Russia was backing Moore’s candidacy.
The Montgomery Advertiser ran an article just months before election day with the headline “Russian invasion? Roy Moore sees spike in Twitter followers from land of Putin”. Other media outlets quickly picked up the story.
According to the NYT’s report, one participant in the scheme was Jonathon Morgan, the chief executive of New Knowledge, a firm that wrote a report – released by the Senate Intelligence Committee this week – about Russia’s social media operations in the 2016 election and its efforts to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.
In a statement on Twitter, Morgan denied the scheme was aimed at influencing the election. “I did not participate in any campaign to influence the public,” he wrote, saying the project goals weren’t about supporting the Jones campaign.
The report said the scheme was funded by Hoffman, who is one of Silicon Valley’s top donors to the Democrats. Hoffman gave $7 million to various Democratic groups and campaigns in the last election cycle.
The money trickled down through American Engagement Technologies, a firm run by Dickerson, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama to lead the newly-created United States Digital Service.
Jones said he is “outraged” over the report and wants a federal investigation.
“I’d like to see the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department look at this to see if there were any laws being violated and, if there were, prosecute those responsible,” he said. “These authorities need to use this example right now to start setting the course for the future to let people know that this is not acceptable in the United States of America.”