The New York Times: Halting Russian Influence Campaigns (ft. Cody Buntain)

INFO Staff - April 1, 2023

INFO Assistant Professor Cody Buntain has uncovered evidence of a Russian effort to use Twitter to influence Canadians.

A hand holding a phone with news posts showing on the screen

A group of researchers, including UMD College of Information Studies (INFO) Assistant Professor Cody Buntain, have uncovered evidence of a Russian effort to use Twitter to influence Canadian public opinion about its invasion of Ukraine, with pro-Russian messages being disseminated by both far-right and far-left groups in Canada. Of the 90 Twitter accounts identified as largely responsible for a pro-Moscow messaging that was retweeted or liked by around 200,000 other accounts over the course of two years, 59% belonged to the far-right or supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The remainder were linked with members of the far-left who espoused a disapproval of NATO and war. The researchers argue that the joint agenda of the two groups undermines Canadian aid to Ukraine.

The revelation of the Russian influence campaign has sparked concern among many Canadians and renewed calls for greater regulation of social media platforms. Critics argue that platforms like Twitter have a responsibility to protect users from foreign interference and should take more aggressive steps to root out and remove malicious content.

The news also comes at a sensitive time for Canada, as the country prepares for a federal election later in the year. With public trust in government and the media already at a low point, the discovery of a foreign influence campaign aimed at undermining democratic institutions could have significant implications for the outcome of the election and the future of Canadian democracy.

In response to the news, Twitter released a statement emphasizing its commitment to combating fake news and disinformation on its platform. The company acknowledged that it had identified and removed a number of fake accounts and bots, but emphasized that such activity was not limited to any one nation or political ideology. Twitter urged users to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activity they encountered on the platform.

Read the full article here. Written by Ian Austen and published on April 1, 2023 by the New York Times.