Popular alt-right blogger, Jenna Abrams, has been outed by the US Intelligence Committee as a creation of the Russian state-backed Internet Research Agency.
Jenna Abrams had amassed more than 70,000 twitter followers since the creation of the account in 2014, through a combination of humour and celebrity commentary alongside populist political narratives. This fabricated identity appears to have engendered, through a Medium account, an active blog and even a GoFundMe page.
Her tweets were commonly picked up by news sites and thus spread to larger audiences. One of the first occurrences of this was when her tweet was included in a BBC article on women shaving their armpits. Her comment stated that the practice was a matter of ‘simple hygiene’.
In the months before the election, however, she began to ramp up the political rhetoric as part of a Russian strategy to sow division by encouraging political extremism. The Russian government intended to stir up tensions on both sides, but found particular success with the alt-right.
One area of focus for the operator was on historical revisionism around the Confederacy and slavery. For example, she claimed: ‘To those people, who hate the Confederate flag. Did you know that the flag and the war wasn’t about slavery, it was all about money’ and alleged, regarding segregation, that ‘black people want it back. 100% free people made their choice, and their choice is segregation.’
Her accounts have since been deactivated, but some evidence of her past activity remains.
Turns out a popular pro-Trump twitter acct that created Monica Lewinsky in OO meme after pic of KellyAnne Conway on knees👉a Russian troll pic.twitter.com/QunMVDYXLj
— 🇺🇦Paula Chertok🗽🇺🇦 (@PaulaChertok) October 17, 2017
In January 2017 the US Intelligence Community, consisting of 16 governmental intelligence agencies including the FBI, NSA, and CIA, released a declassified report on its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 national election.
The Russian operation had involved a mixture of conventional propaganda through sources such as the Kremlin-loyal ‘Russia Today’ as well as paid trolls organised by the ‘Internet Research Agency’.
US intelligence concluded that authorisation for the interference had come directly from Putin and was directed specifically in favour of Donald Trump and against Hillary Clinton.
It is speculated that Putin holds a grudge against Clinton for her slamming of Russia’s electoral irregularities during her time as Secretary of State. Intelligence agencies concluded that this was the boldest and most effective attempt to influence US politics since the Cold War, and that the Russians would most likely ramp up their efforts in light of its success.
Facebook says that 126 million Americans may have been exposed to Russia-linked political posts up to two years preceding the election.
One man, who said he had worked on a Russian troll farm, had the following to say with regards to influencing American politics:
Our goal wasn’t to turn Americans toward Russia. Our goal was to set Americans against their own government.