News Brief

Democrat ‘Disinformation’ Campaign Provokes Condemnation from Pro-Trump and Pro-Kremlin Media

From using Russian bots to “false flag” operations, and disinformation on Facebook, the accusations sounded familiar. But this time, it’s not Trump on the receiving end but the Democratic Party.

Since the New York Times exposed the party’s links with a Russian-style disinformation campaign aimed at influencing the result of the tightly-fought 2017 race for an Alabama Senate seat, the pro-Trump media and other supporters have, not surprisingly, seized on the revelations.

Mike Cernovich, a prominent alt-right voice, accused the Democrats of “buying Russian bots.” The right-wing Breitbart site talked of a “Democrat Facebook disinformation campaign.”

Parts of the Russian media have joined in too, with a host for a Kremlin-funded network declaring: ”I’ve seen some dirty stuff in politics all over the world, but this is platinum-tier dishonest.”

This may be a case of the pot calling the kettle black, but these accusations have substance too.

Last week, The New York Times reported that Democrat activists had created a “Dry Alabama” page on Facebook advocating a ban on alcohol and endorsing the Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, aimed at undermining his support base. Funded by a pro-Democrat organization, “Investing in Us,” they also spent some $80,000 on Facebook ads to widen the page’s reach.

An earlier Times report detailed how Democrat Party activists funded by the same organization worked with cybersecurity firm “New Knowledge” to plant claims that thousands of Russian bots were following Moore, generating headlines that helped undermine his candidacy.

An internal report on New Knowledge’s work obtained by The New York Times explicitly stated that it had “experimented with many of the tactics now understood to have influenced the 2016 elections.”

“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 report boasted.

Democrat Doug Jones, who eventually won the race by a relatively small margin, has denounced the tactics.

Accusations of sexual misconduct against Moore uncovered by The Washington Post also played a key role in puncturing his bid for a Senate seat in what has historically been a safe Republican seat.

Revelations that the Democrats may have been copying the Russians appear to have emboldened those seeking to dismiss Moscow’s influence on the US presidential election.

In a report on the Alabama story, RT pointed out that the sum of money Democratic operatives spent on Facebook ads for this single senate race was comparable to the $100,000 Russian agents are accused of spending on Facebook ads for the whole 2016 election.

A co-founder of Investing in Us, Dmitri Mehlhorn, penned a sort of apology shortly after the first Times report, denouncing the mass disinformation his organization had funded.

On Medium, Mehlhorn wrote that in fighting the “dirty tricks” of Republicans, “we have to find ways to do so without becoming what we oppose.”