SAN FRANCISCO — As Twitter prepared to brief staff members of the Senate and House intelligence committees Thursday for their investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, researchers from a public policy group have been following hundreds of accounts to track the ongoing Russian operations to influence social media discourse and foment division in the United States.
There is evidence that Twitter may have been used even more extensively than Facebook in the Russian influence campaign last year. In addition to Russia-linked Twitter accounts that posed as Americans, the platform was also used for large-scale automated messaging, using “bot” accounts to spread false stories and promote news articles about e-mails from Democratic operatives that had been obtained by Russian hackers.
Twitter has struggled for years to rein in the fake accounts overrunning its platform. Unlike Facebook, the service does not require its users to provide their names and allows automated accounts — arguing that they are a useful tool for tasks such as customer service. Beyond those looser restrictions, there is also an online black market for services that allow for the creation of large numbers of Twitter bots, which can be controlled by a single person while still being difficult to distinguish from real accounts.
Since last month, researchers at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan initiative of the German Marshall Fund, a public policy research group in Washington, have been publicly tracking 600 Twitter accounts — human users and suspected bots alike — they have linked to Russian influence operations.
Of 80 news stories promoted last week by those accounts, more than 25 percent “had a primary theme of anti-Americanism,” the researchers found. About 15 percent were critical of Hillary Clinton. Eleven percent focused on wiretapping in the federal investigation into Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, with most of them treated the news as a vindication for Trump’s earlier wiretapping claims.
Facebook ‘anti-Trump,’ president declares
WASHINGTON — President Trump is calling Facebook ‘‘anti-Trump.’’ His tweet Wednesday came days after the social media company agreed to provide material to congressional investigators probing Russia interference in the 2016 election.
Trump’s comments came days after Facebook said it will provide the contents of 3,000 ads bought by a Russian agency to congressional investigators and make political advertising on its platform more transparent.
Several committees are investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump helps GOP pull in close to $5m at fund-raiser
President Trump helped raise an estimated $5 million for Republicans on Tuesday as he dined privately in New York with some of the biggest names in US finance and real estate.
About 150 people were expected to attend the event at New York’s Le Cirque restaurant, according to a Republican National Committee official who requested anonymity because the event was private. Tickets cost a minimum of $35,000, and $250,000 per couple bought access to a private round table with the president. A $100,000 donation guaranteed ‘‘VIP access’’ to Trump.
Casino mogul Steve Wynn and John Catsimatidis, the billionaire grocer and oil-refinery owner, were seen entering the closed-door event, as was Florida lobbyist and fund-raiser Brian Ballard.
Republicans are gearing up their fund-raising efforts as they prepare to defend House and Senate majorities in next year’s midterm elections.
The New York dinner was held just as results began to trickle in from the Republican primary for a Senate seat in Alabama, where Trump’s favored candidate, Luther Strange, lost to an antiestablishment conservative.
Le Cirque, on 58th Street between Lexington and Third avenues, has been popular with Trump since his days as a New York real estate developer.
In June 2016, he held a fund-raiser there with some of Wall Street’s biggest donors.
The restaurant filed for bankruptcy in March, though the Maccioni family that owns it has no plans to close.
‘‘We are trying to use the bankruptcy laws exactly like the president did,’’ Mario Maccioni said Tuesday evening. ‘‘And in our case, hopefully, it will work as well as it did for him.’’
Trump’s companies filed for bankruptcy at least four times.