Fake social media accounts believed to be operated by Russian propaganda agents have intensified their mentions of special counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation into the Russian government's influence campaign during the 2016 election just recently made its first indictments.
Social media executives are scheduled to testify before Congress about how pervasive Russian propaganda has become on their platforms.
Hamilton 68, a dashboard created by the nonpartisan Alliance for Securing Democracy, tracks social media activity by hundreds of accounts believed to be operated by Russian "bots" in real time. Since Oct. 27, when reports began to emerge that the Mueller probe was prepared to make its first indictments, the dashboard catalogued a steep uptick in social media missives attempting to discredit Mueller, Mother Jones reports.
The Hamilton 68 dashboard found that Russian bots focused their messages during late October with "some variation on a theme of corruption, collusion, cover-up by the Clinton-led State Department and/or the Mueller-led FBI."
On Oct. 30, Mueller announced indictments against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate, Rick Gates. Both were charged with 12 counts ranging from financial crimes to conspiracy against the U.S. Manafort and Gates surrendered themselves to the FBI and pleaded not guilty to all charges, according to The Hill.
The Department of Justice also disclosed that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about his contact with Russian officials during the 2016 election.
Russian activity on U.S. social media platforms has become a focal point in the Mueller probe. On Sept. 27, officials familiar with the Russia investigation told Bloomberg that Mueller's team had a "red-hot" focus on determining how Russian propagandists allegedly spread disinformation on social media platforms to influence the 2016 election.
On Oct. 31, the general consuls of Facebook, Google and Twitter will testify before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee to discuss their findings of how widespread Russian disinformation had been on their platforms during the election.
Facebook's general consuls will reportedly disclose that propagandists associated with the Russian government had purchased 3,000 ads on their social media platform that were seen by 126 million American users.
Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab noted before the hearing that social media platforms were ill-prepared to manage Russian propaganda efforts because they have always treated their customers with anonymity.
"The platforms are between a rock and a hard place," Nimmo said. "They have to balance protecting people from the minority of anonymous malicious users with protecting the privacy of the majority of users."