(Reuters) – A U.S. indictment charging a Russian national with playing a prominent role in a Kremlin-backed plan to conduct “information warfare” to influence the U.S. midterm elections suggested that Russian influence operations have become more sophisticated since a campaign to impact the U.S. 2016 presidential election.
Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova was the chief accountant for Project Lakhta, an operation started in 2014 that amplified news articles and social media posts by pushing them wider and posted links to domestic media with specific messages attacking individuals and political parties, among other tactics.
Court documents cited examples of advice the group’s organizers gave operatives on how to position:
– An article on former U.S. Senator John McCain’s opposition to building a wall on the Mexican border.
“Brand McCain as an old geezer who has lost it and who long ago belonged in a home for the elderly. Emphasize that John McCain’s pathological hatred toward Donald Trump and all his initiatives crosses all reasonable borders and limits,” organizers urged.
— An article on U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan’s opposition to President Donald Trump’s efforts to cut immigration.
“Brand Paul Ryan a complete and absolute nobody incapable of any decisiveness. Emphasize that while serving as Speaker, this two-faced loudmouth has not accomplished anything good for America or for American citizens.”
– An article that allegedly described “the 8 dirtiest scandals” of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.
“Special Prosecutor Mueller is a puppet of the establishment. List scandals that took place when Mueller headed the FBI.”
Reporting by Jim Finkle in New York and Joseph Menn in San Francisco