It's time to stop blaming Russia for 2016 election
The idea was simple. Russian agents would create groups and pages to try and throw the American 2016 election into turmoil. They’d present misinformation as fact and undermine the chances of Hillary Clinton becoming President of the United States.
At least, that’s what we were told happened.
We know that Russia apparently tried to pull some stuff, but the question has always been, “Did it work?”
The Mueller investigation said it didn’t. Now, it seems he’s not the only one.
The Washington Post said as much.
From my friend Jack Hunter over at Based Politics:
When Mueller came up empty-handed in 2019, disappointed Democrats still insisted that Russia had used trolls or bots on social media to steer the election toward Trump. Yet, the Washington Post’s Tim Starks reported on Monday (emphasis added), “Russian influence operations on Twitter in the 2016 presidential election reached relatively few users, most of whom were highly partisan Republicans, and the Russian accounts had no measurable impact in changing minds or influencing voter behavior, according to a study out this morning.”
“The study, which the New York University Center for Social Media and Politics helmed, explores the limits of what Russian disinformation and misinformation was able to achieve on one major social media platform in the 2016 elections,” the Post noted.
The story continued, “’My personal sense coming out of this is that this got way overhyped,’ Josh Tucker, one of the report’s authors who is also the co-director of the New York University center, told me about the meaningfulness of the Russian tweets.”
The story contains many details and statistics, but the grand takeaway and WaPo’s headline—“Russian trolls on Twitter had little influence on 2016 voters”—tell us fairly conclusively that at least on Twitter, the minimal amount of interference Russia committed also had minimal influence on the election.
It’s hilarious that so many of the Democratic leadership, including the incoming minority leader, have long believed it was.
Now, I’m not about to argue we should purge people guilty of being wrong from all roles in the government—they should be purged via elections for being wrong on a bunch of other stuff, but not that—but it’s important to note that Russian misinformation isn’t nearly the threat some have made it out to be.
That matters because this has been presented as a pretext for trying to control what shows up on social media.
And it also matters because the Russians apparently gave it the old college try and accomplished absolutely nothing. It’s evidence that free speech actually works.
No one was swayed by the Russians’ best efforts. The resources of an entire nation, rich with oil and trade before they invaded Ukraine, and they couldn’t manage to do anything because we have freedom of speech and people could use facts to override misinformation.
Frankly, this makes me feel so much better about this nation.
Yes, Hillary Clinton lost. She lost because she was an unlikeable candidate that even many of her ardent supporters had to hold their noses while voting for her. Russia didn’t have to do a whole lot to sway an election away from her. Clearly, they didn’t even have to do anything to accomplish that goal.
Now, the question is whether Hillary will acknowledge this fact. I’m not holding my breath on that.
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