The FBI is investigating whether far-right news sites like Breitbart and InfoWars assisted Russia in their cyber attack of the 2016 presidential election.
On Monday, McClatchy reported that the FBI investigation into Russia’s interference in our election has expanded to include what role alt-right news sites played in the Russian attack.
“Operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as “bots,” to blitz social media with links to the pro-Trump stories at times when the billionaire businessman was on the defensive in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, these sources said.
The bots’ end products were largely millions of Twitter and Facebook posts carrying links to stories on conservative internet sites such as Breitbart News and InfoWars, as well as on the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News, the sources said. Some of the stories were false or mixed fact and fiction, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the bot attacks are part of an FBI-led investigation into a multifaceted Russian operation to influence last year’s elections.”
The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division is also looking into whether these sites took action to aid and assist Russia’s efforts, although their active participation was not necessary for the bots to spread their lies. An example of the fake news pushed by both the sites and the bots was the bogus story accusing Hillary of running a child-sex ring in the basement of a Washington pizza parlor, which resulted in a deranged man showing up with a gun to “save the children.”
“Russia also used “trolls,” hundreds of computer operatives who pretended to be Trump supporters and posted stories or comments on the internet complimentary to Trump or disparaging to Clinton. Sources close to the inquiry said those operatives likely worked from a facility in St. Petersburg, Russia, dedicated to that tactic.
“Russian bots and internet trolls sought to propagate stories underground,” said Mike Carpenter, a former senior Pentagon official during the Obama administration whose job focused on Russia. “Those stories got amplified by fringe elements of our media like Breitbart.””
In February 2016, a top Kremlin official made a speech in Moscow bragging about the cyber attack they were about to launch on the U.S.
Andrey Krutskikh told the conference of Russian computer security officials that Putin was about to unleash a cyber nuclear attack reminiscent of Russia’s 1949 development of the atom bomb. He said this attack would force America to respect Russia’s capabilities and see them as equals.
Clearly, Russia’s attack was successful. Now the question is, to what extent did Americans, including the people running sites like Breitbart and InfoWars, collude with or assist them.