Most major outlets have used Russian tweets as sources for partisan opinion

[Commentary] In a new study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we look at how often, and in what context, Twitter accounts from the Internet Research Agency—a St. Petersburg-based organization directed by individuals with close ties to Vladimir Putin, and subject to Mueller’s scrutiny—successfully made their way from social media into respected journalistic media. We searched the content of 33 major American news outlets for references to the 100 most-retweeted accounts among those Twitter identified as controlled by the IRA, from the beginning of 2015 through September 2017. We found at least one tweet from an IRA account embedded in 32 of the 33 outlets—a total of 116 articles—including in articles published by institutions with longstanding reputations, like The Washington Post, NPR, and the Detroit Free Press, as well as in more recent, digitally native outlets such as BuzzFeed, Salon, and Mic (the outlet without IRA-linked tweets was Vice). 

The bulk of IRA embeds in our study occurred after, not during, the election; in fact, only 5 percent of the stories with IRA embeds were about the election. Instead, most of the stories covered hot-button social and political issues, such as racism and healthcare—a finding consistent with analyses showing the Russian campaign’s interest in sowing discord in the US.

[Josephine Lukito and Chris Wells are the lead authors of this study, which was produced by a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.]

Most major outlets have used Russian tweets as sources for partisan opinion The Twitter Exploit: How Russian Propaganda Infiltrated U.S. News (read the study)