US-based group launches tool to track Russian propaganda online

San Francisco, Aug 3 : To keep a tab on Russia’s alleged efforts to influence public opinion in the US, a US-based non-profit organisation has launched a new web tool that provides a near real-time look at Russian propaganda and disinformation efforts online.

Named ‘Hamilton 68 dashboard,’ the tool has been launched by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan project backed by the German Marshall Fund of the US (GMF).

The top of the page shows tweets from, what the Alliance calls, “official Russian propaganda outlets” in English and a short post discussing the themes of the day.

In a blog post, Laura Rosenberger, Director of the Alliance, wrote on Wednesday that since the 2016 US Presidential elections, Russia’s efforts to shape what Americans think has continued and the US citizens deserve to know what messages Russian disinformation networks are pushing.

The Alliance said its objective was to provide this dashboard to help ordinary people, journalists, and other analysts identify Russian messaging themes and detect active disinformation or attack campaigns as soon as they begin.

The analysis done by the Alliance revealed that the disinformation networks include bots and trolls that synchronise to promote Russian messaging themes, including attack campaigns and the spreading of disinformation.

According to Rosenberger, some of these troll accounts are directly controlled by Russia, while others are users who on their own initiative reliably repeat and amplify Russian themes.

The network, the Alliance claimed, sometimes amplifies stories that Russia likes and tweets about stories and people that Russia seeks to discredit or attack.

“Our analysis is based on linked 600 Twitter accounts to Russian influence activities online, and the lower section of the dashboard features charts that display topics, hashtags, and links currently promoted by this network,” Rosenberger added.

To identify these accounts, the Alliance said they first tracked disinformation campaigns that synchronised with “overt Russian propaganda outlets like Sputnik and Russia Today (RT).

“Second, we identified a group of users online that openly professed to be pro-Russian and tweeted primarily in support of Russian government policies and themes. Third, we identified accounts that appear to use automation to boost the signal of other accounts linked to Russian influence operations,” the blog post read.

Rosenberger said that exposing these messages will make information consumers more resilient and reduce the effectiveness of Russia’s attempts to influence Americans’ thinking, and “deter this activity in the future by making it less effective”.


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