Schafer, Bret. “Tracking Russia’s Digital Deception-Analysis of the Kremlin’s Information Operations on Social Media.” NATO Science for Peace and Security Studies Series – E: Human and Societal Dynamics 142 (2021).
This paper examines the Kremlin’s use of social media to conduct information operations in the United States. In particular, it analyzes more than a year of data from covert and overt Russian-linked accounts on Twitter in an effort to expose the methods and messages used to engage and influence American audiences online. Coupled with analysis of criminal complaints and indictments from the Department of Justice, this report makes a case that Russia’s election-specific interference efforts are secondary to efforts to promote Russia’s geopolitical interests, export its illiberal worldview, and weaken the United States by exacerbating existing social and political divisions. By examining Russia’s information operations on Twitter from both an operational and thematic perspective, this report also highlights the tactics, techniques, and narratives used to influence Americans online. Through this analysis, this paper illuminates the ongoing challenges of protecting the free exchange of information from foreign efforts to manipulate public debates, as well as the difficulties in measuring the societal impact of Russia’s ongoing malign influence efforts.