The spread of Russian-made fake news stories aimed at discrediting Hillary Clinton on social media is emerging as an important line of inquiry in multiple investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Investigators are looking into whether Trump supporters and far-right websites coordinated with Moscow over the release of fake news, including stories implicating Clinton in murder or paedophilia, or paid to boost those stories on Facebook. The head of the Trump digital camp, Brad Parscale, has reportedly been summoned to appear before the House intelligence committee looking into Moscow’s interference in the 2016 US election. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee carrying out a parallel inquiry, has said that at least 1,000 “paid internet trolls working out of a facility in Russia” were pumping anti-Clinton fake news into social media sites during the campaign.
Warner said there was evidence that this campaign appeared to be focused on key voters in swing states, raising the question over whether there was coordination with US political operatives in directing the flow of bogus stories.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed by the justice department to oversee the investigation into the Russian role in the election, is thought to be looking into all these issues, as well as possible links between Russian fake news factories and far-right sites in the US.
It is a wide-ranging investigation that is examining the unusually large number of contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials during the campaign, as well as the possibility that the Kremlin has personal or financial leverage over members in the Trump camp, including the president himself according to his own remarks on Twitter.