Colorado voters hit by Russia’s tweets in presidential election: Analysis shows troves of voters exposed to propaganda

Denver Post review of 200,000 now-deleted tweets shows Russian-linked accounts promoted Donald Trump and attacked Hillary Clinton

John Frank / The Denver Post

Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election exposed hundreds of thousands of Colorado voters to misinformation and propaganda through media outlets and social networks, a new analysis of Twitter data shows.

The majority of the Colorado-related messages broadcast by Russia-linked Twitter accounts appeared to favor Republican Donald Trump and foster discontent in the nation’s political system, according to a Denver Post review of more than 200,000 tweets sent by the Kremlin-backed operation. And more than a dozen of the posts appeared in news stories published by Colorado media organizations before and after the election, further extending their reach.

The analysis offers a glimpse into how Colorado voters became a target in the Russian effort and echoes an indictment Friday from special counsel Robert Mueller that says Russia tried to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”

Two of the 13 Russian nationals charged in the indictment allegedly visited Colorado in June 2014 as part of an effort to gather intelligence and target so-called purple states that decide presidential elections. Democrat Hillary Clinton won Colorado by a margin of 5 percentage points, despite significant efforts by the Trump campaign to win the state in the final weeks before Election Day.

The Russians conducted what they called “information warfare against the United States of America,” the 37-page indictment states, using “fictitious U.S. personas on social media platforms and other internet-based media.”

The strategy is evident in a database of 202,973 tweets published by NBC News that are linked to thousands of accounts created by Russian operatives that Twitter identified to congressional investigators and labeled as “malicious activity.” The company suspended the accounts and deleted the tweets from public view, but the news organization compiled a list using archived data.

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