Throughout history, the United States presidential elections have always involved mudslinging to shed light on various scandals. With the goal of demeaning the other candidates, elections seem to bring out the bad, the good, and the fabricated facts about everyone. The 2016 election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was no different. Each side made the public aware of the other’s scandals and inadequacies. However, there was help from external forces. Later in the election, the government release information indicating that Russian hackers influenced the election. From the release of confidential emails to influencing social media’s coverage on political issues, it is clear that hackers promoted Trump’s campaign.
One of the main ways the Russian hackers degraded Clinton’s campaign was by releasing confidential emails about Democratic operations. They gained access to this information through a phishing email sent to the Democratic campaign chairman, John Podesta. The illegitimate email gave the hackers access to all of the information on his computer and his emails. From there, everyday emails involving the Democratic campaign were released online.
Social Media Hacks
Twitter served as the primary social media platform to promote the election. Due to the abundance of online services, Twitter can serve as a playground for hackers. The Russian hackers were able to form botnets to send automated messages promoting articles about leaked Democratic operative emails. There is also evidence that they promoted fake articles and articles promoting social issues.
Additionally, Facebook disclosed evidence of Russian interference in the elections through the use of political ads linked to approximately 470 fake accounts and pages. These accounts purchased more than $100,000 worth of ads that focused on hot social issues such as gun control, immigration, race, and LGBTQ rights. The fake accounts are thought to be related to the Internet Research Agency, which is notorious for using fake accounts to post on social media with the goal of degrading the population’s sense of nationality.
In total, 25% of the social media posts promoted anti-Americanism, 15% sought to degrade Clinton and her campaign, and 11% focused on Paul Manafort, President Trump’s previous campaign chairman who is being investigated for wiretapping.
The culprits behind the hacks were 12 Russian nationals, and several of them worked for Russia’s intelligence agencies. The motivation behind these attacks is still under speculation, but many are suspect of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. Many believe that he wanted to damage Clinton’s campaign because she promoted pro-democracy protests in Russia. Another common belief is that the hacks were motivated to improve Trump’s campaign rather than undermine the political process. On the other hand, others believe that Russia’s involvement in the election was meant to destroy United States citizens’ faith in the Democratic process.
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Resources: https://www.npr.org/2018/07/19/630289153/why-did-russia-attack-the-2016-election-this-weeks-whirlwind-offers-new-clues, http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2018/07/25/russia-election-interference-how-why, http://time.com/5340060/donald-trump-vladimir-putin-summit-russia-meddling/, https://www.cnn.com/2016/12/02/politics/democrats-russian-hacking-intelligence/, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/27/technology/twitter-russia-election.html, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/06/technology/facebook-russian-political-ads.html, https://www.cnn.com/2016/12/26/us/2016-presidential-campaign-hacking-fast-facts/index.html
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