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Russia has a record of disinformation campaigns. So, why wasn’t the US prepared during the 2016 election?

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U.S. President George W. Bush departs the Oval Office of the White House for a day trip to South Carolina November 2, 2007.
President George W. Bush departs the Oval Office of the White House for a day trip to South Carolina, Nov. 2, 2007. 
 
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Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

If 2016 was the year that Russian trolls hacked the US election, 2017 has been the year of the evidence taps opening wide, showing how Russia did it.

The latest revelation: An apparently fake journalist named Alice Donovan, who filed several opinion pieces for the left-leaning news site CounterPunch. “Internal bureau reports described her as a pseudonymous foot soldier in an army of Kremlin-led trolls seeking to undermine America’s democratic institutions,” The Washington Post reports.

Kremlin-linked trolls are also accused of using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to spread disinformation and sow division around already-divisive issues during the US presidential election.

Russia has a history of launching disinformation campaigns. So, why weren't US officials prepared to guard against the campaign in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election? 

“US intelligence and law enforcement agencies saw some warning signs of Russian meddling in Europe and later in the United States but never fully grasped the breadth of the Kremlin’s ambitions,” The Washington Post reports. “Top US policymakers didn’t appreciate the dangers, then scrambled to draw up options to fight back. In the end, big plans died of internal disagreement, a fear of making matters worse or a misguided belief in the resilience of American society and its democratic institutions.”

For more on the US response to Russian dinsinformation campaigns, listen to an interview with Adam Entous, who co-reported the Washington Post piece "Kremlin trolls burned across the internet as Washington debated options."

In PoliticsGlobal PoliticsElection 2016Science, Tech & EnvironmentTechnologyGlobal Security.

Tagged: WASHINGTONAmericaEuropeRussiaUnited States.