Russia targeted supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., following his primary loss in 2016, hoping to push them towards voting for President Donald Trump instead of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, The Washington Post reports.
Shortly after Sanders ended his primary campaign, a Twitter account called Red Louisiana News began focusing on the senator’s supporters. “Conscious Bernie Sanders supporters already moving towards the best candidate Trump! #Feel the Bern #Vote Trump 2016,” read one tweet from the account, according to the Post.
Clemson University researchers found that this Twitter account was not based in Louisiana, as it claimed, but from Russia. Special counsel Robert Mueller found in his investigation that Russians at the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg were directed to use social media accounts to oppose Clinton and “to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”
Researchers found that although it’s impossible to tell for sure how many social media posts were made targeting Sanders supporters, at least 9,000 of these Russian tweets included the word “Bernie.”
“I think there is no question that Sanders was central to their strategy. He was clearly used as a mechanism to decrease voter turnout for Hillary Clinton,” said Darren Linvill, an associate professor of communications at Clemson and one of the researchers.
He added that the tweets they examined “give us a much clearer understanding of the tactics they were using. It was certainly a higher volume than people thought.”
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