NEW YORK (WAFF) - The New York Times has published a shocking new story, claiming it’s made contact with a group of Democratic tech experts who say they experimented with Russian style tactics online during the 2017 special election between Doug Jones and Roy Moore.
The Times found no evidence that Jones' campaign was aware of the group or sanctioned them.
The group claims it infiltrated social media sites, posing as conservative Alabamians. While there, they tried to amplify anti-Moore stories and pushed conservatives to support a write-in campaign for another candidate instead. They may also be responsible for purchasing phony accounts based in Russia and having those accounts follow Roy Moore on Twitter. The goal was to make it seem as though Moore’s campaign was buying followers in an attempt to amplify his presence on social media. Moore’s campaign manager Rich Hobson, told the Times that the Moore team had suspicions that something off was happening online, but they couldn’t find any hard evidence.
Ultimately, most campaign officials don’t believe the experiment swayed the election. The write-in candidate supported by the phony trolls earned only a few hundred votes. Hobson isn’t so sure, however. He told the Times “any and all of these things could make a difference.” Joe Trippi, Jones' top adviser during the campaign, says the trend of outside groups using Russian style online campaign attacks is troubling - even if it was in support of his candidate.
The group had a $100,000 budget, which was mostly paid for by Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn. The money passed through a group called American Engagement Technologies. Jonathon Morgan, who admits to being part of the group, says the goal was to gauge reactions to the online efforts, not influence the vote.