College of Liberal Arts

Trolling the U.S.: Q&A on Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election

Wed, Jan 9, 2019
40 percent of Texans believe Russian interference played a role in the outcome of the 2016 election (UT/TT poll)
40 percent of Texans believe Russian interference played a role in the outcome of the 2016 election (UT/TT poll)

It’s been more than two years since the 2016 presidential election, and the United States is still piecing together Russia’s propaganda-filled interference in U.S. political conversations on social media.

According to a February 2018 poll by The University of Texas at Austin and The Texas Tribune, 40 percent of Texans believe Russian interference played a role in the outcome of the 2016 election; and in their most recent poll, 41 percent disapprove of how the investigation into Russian meddling is being handled, leading many to ask, “How did this all happen?”

“From a basic democratic perspective, it is absolutely critical for us to know whether the entire premise of the country itself has been tampered with,” says UT Austin psychology postdoctoral researcher Ryan Boyd.

He and researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Microsoft Research analyzed Facebook ads and Twitter troll accounts run by Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) to determine how people with differing political ideologies were targeted and pitted against each other through this “largely unsophisticated and low-budget” operation.

To learn more about the study and its findings, read our Q&A with Boyd on Life & Letters

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