According to a new report from NPR, “the bread and butter of Russia information operations remains an effort to divide Americans”; to that end, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has suggested the Kremlin is already ramping up efforts to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections.
Tillerson made his comments in an interview with FOX News Tuesday, and stressed that the Russians will adapt to attempts to stop their shenanigans, which makes a sustained effort to mitigate their meddling paramount.
“I don’t know that I would say we are better prepared, because the Russians will adapt as well,” Tillerson said in an exclusive interview with Fox News in Bogota, Colombia. “The point is, if it’s their intention to interfere, they are going to find ways to do that. We can take steps we can take but this is something that, once they decide they are going to do it, it’s very difficult to preempt it.”
Russia is already attempting to interfere “in the U.S. in 2018” ahead of congressional midterm elections as it did in the 2016 general election, he said.
“I think it’s important we just continue to say to Russia, ‘Look, you think we don’t see what you’re doing. We do see it and you need to stop. If you don’t, you’re going to just continue to invite consequences for yourself,’” said Tillerson.
According to the report from NPR, a majority of Americans already believe Russians will try to meddle in the next election. Fortunately, tools have been in place for the last 6 months with the goal of tracking and, ultimately, undermining those efforts.
Hamilton 68 is a project that has been tracking Russian influence networks on Twitter for more than six months, watching as Kremlin-linked bots and social media amplifiers seek to inject themselves into national controversies, like #ReleaseTheMemo, the Charlottesville white nationalist rally and the NFL kneeling controversy…
…The tracking effort is part of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan initiative hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
After more than half a year of tracking Russian influence on Twitter, the project’s staff have noticed deeper trends that reveal how the Russian government tries to get its own message out to more Americans. In addition to fanning controversies, Hamilton 68 noticed that the bots are trying to expand American exposure to Russian foreign policy propaganda, in part by slipping it into innocuous conversations.
The online dashboard for Hamilton 68 is available for public viewing and is as interesting as it sounds. However, while some of the Russian efforts to sow discord involve promoting their own propaganda, another portion of it appears less innocuous but arguably more effective: turning Americans against each other.
“These are not networks that are necessarily always traditional propaganda… a lot of it is just trying to rip apart Americans, to sow chaos within our political system, to pit Americans of both parties against each other,” said Jamie Fly, a director for the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a former foreign policy aide for Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “And so a lot of the issues that we see these networks push are actually part of our day-to-day domestic political debates and often have nothing to do with foreign policy.”
Americans gnashing their teeth at each other over politics? If ever there was a limitless resource to weaken the country and meddle in elections, the Russians seems to have found it.