Secret Experiment in Alabama Senate Race Imitated Russian Tactics – The New York Times

Mr. Watson, who runs a patio supply company in Auburn, Ala., confirmed that he got some assistance from a Facebook page whose operators seemed determined to stay in the shadows.

Of dozens of conservative Alabamian-oriented pages on Facebook that he wrote to, only one replied. “You are in a particularly interesting position and from what we have read of your politics, we would be inclined to endorse you,” the unnamed operator of the page wrote. After Mr. Watson answered a single question about abortion rights as a sort of test, the page offered an endorsement, though no money.

“They never spent one red dime as far as I know on anything I did — they just kind of told their 400 followers, ‘Hey, vote for this guy,’” Mr. Watson said.

Mr. Watson never spoke with the page’s author or authors by phone, and they declined a request for meeting. But he did notice something unusual: his Twitter followers suddenly ballooned from about 100 to about 10,000. The Facebook page’s operators asked Mr. Watson whether he trusted anyone to set up a super PAC that could receive funding and offered advice on how to sharpen his appeal to disenchanted Republican voters.

Shortly before the election, the page sent him a message, wishing him luck.

The report does not say whether the project purchased the Russian bot Twitter accounts that suddenly began to follow Mr. Moore. But it takes credit for “radicalizing Democrats with a Russian bot scandal” and points to stories on the phenomenon in the mainstream media. “Roy Moore flooded with fake Russian Twitter followers,” reported The New York Post.

Inside the Moore campaign, officials began to worry about online interference.

“We did have suspicions that something odd was going on,” said Rich Hobson, Mr. Moore’s campaign manager. Mr. Hobson said that although he did not recall any hard evidence of interference, the campaign complained to Facebook about potential chicanery.

“Any and all of these things could make a difference,” Mr. Hobson said. “It’s definitely frustrating, and we still kick ourselves that Judge Moore didn’t win.”


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