“For RT, they focus on dissemination through social media,” Clint Watts, a former FBI agent and fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told FP in an interview.
YouTube and other forms of social media give Russian outlets “influence in the U.S. in a way they would not be able to get through broadcasting,” he said. Watts has testified before Congress about the influence of fake Russian accounts on Twitter. “It hides the Russian propaganda hand.”
By going after two Twitter accounts on the right and left sides of American politics, the Russians would have “options” for a “gray effort,” Watts said, meaning something in between direct messaging and covert influence. The Twitter accounts could be used later, whether promoting content against one candidate or silencing negative content against another.
“It’s about undermining democracy …,” he said, “it’s not necessarily about one candidate or another.”