MPs are stepping up their inquiry into fake news in an effort to extract answers from Facebook and Twitter about the extent of Russian interference in last year’s EU referendum and this year’s UK general election. Russian entities are known to have bought adverts on Facebook and generated election-related content before Donald Trump won last year’s US presidential election, while authorities in France and Germany have said their elections were also targeted.
National: Top Russian Official Tried to Broker ‘Backdoor’ Meeting Between Trump and Putin | The New York Times
A senior Russian official who claimed to be acting at the behest of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia tried in May 2016 to arrange a meeting between Mr. Putin and Donald J. Trump, according to several people familiar with the matter. The news of this reached the Trump campaign in a very circuitous way. An advocate for Christian causes emailed campaign aides saying that Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank who has been linked both to Russia’s security services and organized crime, had proposed a meeting between Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump. The subject line of the email, turned over to Senate investigators, read, “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite,” according to one person who has seen the message.
New investigations released this week suggest the Russians meddled in Britain’s historic referendum last year to leave the European Union, placing an already weakened Prime Minister Theresa May in a most awkward position — just when she needs to be her strongest in Brexit negotiations. The evidence that the Russians, with possible support from the Kremlin, bombarded British targets with social media tweets and posts was splashed on the nightly news and front pages in Britain. Even so, the prime minister and her office stressed that Russian propaganda had “no direct successful influence” on the Brexit vote. Critics of May say an admission that Russia tried to dupe British voters could raise questions about the Conservative Party’s mandate to extricate Britain from the European Union.
It’s been almost a year since Election Day 2016, but the campaign news hasn’t stopped. October 30th brought the first indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. On Tuesday and Wednesday, representatives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter faced congressional grilling over widespread Russian influence on their platforms. Also on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Justice is considering charging Russian government officials for crimes related to the Democratic National Committee hack. Amid the flurry, it’s easy to blur these conversations—especially because they all seem to feature Russia. But the election-hacking conversation desperately needs to be untangled. Whatever other revelations may come, it helps to remember that election hacking is really about three separate threats: hacking voters, hacking votes, and causing disruption or chaos.
National: Jared Kushner failed to disclose emails sent to Trump team about WikiLeaks and Russia | The Guardian
Jared Kushner shared emails within Donald Trump’s team about WikiLeaks and a “backdoor overture” from Russia during the 2016 election campaign and failed to turn them over to investigators, it emerged on Thursday. Senators said that a disclosure of files to their committee by Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, “appears to have been incomplete” and was missing “documents that are known to exist but were not included”. They said in a letter to Kushner’s attorney that they knew of emails received and then sent on by Kushner during the campaign that appear relevant to inquiries into alleged collusion between Moscow and Trump’s team.
United Kingdom: Russia used a network of 150,000 Twitter accounts to meddle in Brexit | Business Insider
Twitter accounts based in Russia posted 45,000 tweets about Brexit within the space of 48 hours during last year’s referendum on EU membership, an investigation commissioned by The Times has found. Data scientists at the University of Swansea and University of California, Berkeley found that over 150,000 accounts based in Russia posted content relating to Brexit in the days leading up to voting day on June 23, 2016. These accounts had previously focused on issues like Russia’s annexation of Crimea, before focusing their attention on the Brexit referendum, with the majority of tweets seen by the Times encouraging people to vote Leave.
Senior White House adviser and son-in-law to the president, Jared Kushner, failed to hand over to Senate investigators emails concerning contacts with WikiLeaks and a “Russian backdoor overture,” according to a letter sent by two senior lawmakers. The letter, released Thursday by Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and its ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, says Kushner failed to turn over “September 2016 email communications to Mr. Kushner concerning WikiLeaks” and other emails pertaining to a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite.” The lawmakers said they were seeking the documents that were “known to exist” from other witnesses in the investigation. “We appreciate your voluntary cooperation with the committee’s investigation, but the production appears to have been incomplete,” the letter, sent to Kushner’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, said. “It appears your search may have overlooked several documents.”
The Russia scandal has ricocheted back across the pond. And it’s dragging Silicon Valley’s giants along with it. Spurred on by Prime Minister Theresa May’s threat to retaliate against Russian interference, a parliamentary committee wants to grill executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter. The committee, following similar inquiries by U.S. lawmakers, is investigating whether Russians are using American internet companies to sway British elections, including last year’s Brexit vote.
United Kingdom: Russia used hundreds of fake accounts to tweet about Brexit, data shows | The Guardian
Concern about Russian influence in British politics has intensified as it emerged that more than 400 fake Twitter accounts believed to be run from St Petersburg published posts about Brexit. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh identified 419 accounts operating from the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) attempting to influence UK politics out of 2,752 accounts suspended by Twitter in the US. One of the accounts run from the Kremlin-linked operation attempted to stir anti-Islamic sentiment during the Westminster Bridge terror attack in March in a bogus post claiming a Muslim woman ignored victims – a claim that was highlighted by mainstream media outlets including Mail Online and the Sun.
National: Russia’s Election Meddling Was Another U.S. Intelligence Failure | Dana Priest/The New Yorker
After American intelligence agencies failed to detect and stop Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attack, sixteen years ago, Congress more than doubled their budgets and gave them unprecedented secret authorities. As the intelligence beat reporter for the Washington Post at the time, I watched these agencies grow in size, as dozens of new buildings appeared around the Washington region to house a ballooning workforce of over a million people with top-secret security clearances. The National Security Agency obtained permission to collect and store the private Internet correspondence and cell-phone data of millions of Americans. The F.B.I. was granted the power to obtain citizens’ banking, library, and phone records without court approval. The C.I.A. opened secret prisons abroad where they tortured terrorist suspects. Local police departments began employing military-grade weapons, armored vehicles, and cell-phone-tracking devices.