The Washington Post, whose journalists were awarded for peddling the discredited “Russia Hoax” narrative, has admitted that so-called Russian trolls “had no measurable impact in changing minds or influencing voter behavior” ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
What prompted the Post to call into question the central tenet of the narrative advanced by liberal media outlets for years was a study led by the New York University Center for Social Media and Politics.
A study published on Jan. 9 in the journal Nature Communications concluded that “it would appear unlikely that the Russian foreign influence campaign on Twitter could have had much more than a relatively minor influence on individual-level attitudes and voting behavior.”
According to the study, it is unlikely that a handful of so-called Russian trolls exerted significant influence for these four reasons:
- “exposure to posts from Russian foreign influence accounts was concentrated among a small group of users, with only 1% of users accounting for 70% of all exposures”;
- “exposure to Russian foreign influence tweets was overshadowed by the amount of exposure to traditional news media and US political candidates”;
- “respondents with the highest levels of exposure to posts from Russian foreign influence accounts were those arguably least likely to need influencing: those who identified themselves as highly partisan Republicans, who were already likely favorable to Donald Trump”; and
- no “meaningful relationships between exposure to posts from Russian foreign influence accounts and changes in respondents’ attitudes on the issues, political polarization, or voting behavior” could be found.
In short: Few people saw the trolls’ posts; those who saw them didn’t need further convincing; the mainstream media’s narrative and candidates’ agitprop was far more pervasive; and it doesn’t seem the trolling ultimately had any meaningful effect.