NBC News believes that failed presidential candidate Jill Stein might have inadvertently played a substantial role in what some media believe is a Russian conspiracy to defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
A Russian troll farm called the Internet Research Agency worked diligently to bolster Stein’s campaign ahead of the 2016 presidential election, NBC reported Saturday.
The outlet analyzed a Dec. 17 report commissioned by the Senate that detailed the extent of the IRA’s role in the election.
An NBC analysis found that Russians working under the direction of the troll farm tweeted the phrase “Jill Stein” more than 1,000 times during the election.
The report, which was conducted by the New Knowledge cybersecurity firm, found the campaign targeted mostly black Americans.
Clint Watts, an NBC News analyst at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told reporters that Russia’s decision to lean in toward Stein should not be that surprising.
NBC reviewed archives of RT and Sputnik, which the CIA believes are Russian propaganda, and found more than 100 stories supporting Stein.
“Is Stein a fellow traveler or a useful idiot?” he asked, rhetorically. “I don’t know, but even after the election she played into Russia disinformation by pursuing a recount so heavily and claiming election fraud. This was a post-election coup for Kremlin propagandists.”
Stein spent nearly $5 million on recount efforts after the election.
NBC then recounted Stein’s decision to accept an invitation to sit with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the head table of an RT anniversary dinner in December 2015. The Green Party presidential candidate told reporters at the time that she had traveled to Moscow to talk about climate change.
The report to the Senate Intelligence Committee noted that IRA’s presence on Instagram has been underestimated: New Knowledge argued that there were 187 million engagements on Instagram, with users sharing and liking content created by Russia. That number dwarfs the 76.5 million engagements on Facebook.
Google ads were also exploited, but to a much lesser extent.
There is significant disagreement about the success of the ads. Most of the ads did not focus exclusively on then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump or Clinton, and the ad sales amounted to a mere $100,000.
Facebook, for instance, said in 2017 that it found roughly 3,000 ads connected to the Russian company, and around 470 inauthentic accounts and pages also appeared to be connected to that firm, which likely promoted the ads. NBC’s analysis shows the tweets didn’t have an extensive reach and were likely only a small part of a much larger mission to destabilize the U.S. election.
Stein has not yet responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment about the validity of the NBC report.
Some Democrats believe that Stein’s candidacy was similar in some respects to Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign in 2000, which some believe cost former Vice President Al Gore the election.
David Wasserman, the House editor at the Cook Political Report, made this idea popular shortly after Clinton’s loss, tweeting in December 2016 that the number of votes cast for Stein in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin exceeded Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton. All three states were pivotal to the result of the election.
FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver torpedoed this claim during his 2016 election breakdown. He noted in a December 2016 post that pre-election polls and the national exit poll suggested that a lot of Stein’s voters wouldn’t have voted at all. Had Stein not run, he said, the breakdown of her voters might have amounted to something like 35 percent Clinton, 10 percent Trump and 55 percent abstention.
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