The lead-up to Election Day in 2020 has had many twists and turns. Throughout the past year, however, we’ve seen a steady drumbeat of disinformation from foreign actors who continue to try and interfere in U.S. elections, their goals evident through the themes and narratives they promote on their state-backed media outlets.
Four years ago, Russian state-sponsored disinformation operations weaponized “Big Tech” platforms as tools to attempt to manipulate the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In 2020, however, Kremlin-backed media outlets have turned against “Big Tech” itself.
Preferences for one candidate or the other in 2020 have been critical to understanding any foreign interference efforts in the lead-up to November—and for understanding potential influence efforts post-Election Day.
Coverage of the protests across the U.S. in RT and Sputnik indicate an attempt by Kremlin media to amplify instances of protest-related violence to portray America as chaotic and politically unstable with out-of-control elected leaders.
Sputnik News’s “Viral” vertical focuses on social media reaction and discussion. Drawing eyeballs to eye-catching content, the “Viral” section may help Sputnik bolster its American readership on topics of greater consequence.
Amid the 2020 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, Russian state-sponsored news outlets RT and Sputnik News published a number of stories and opinion pieces covering both conventions. RT portrayed the DNC and former Vice President Biden especially negatively, while Sputnik News coverage was more mixed.
In the past decade, Twitter has transformed from simply a social media platform to a key access point for news for millions of people in the U.S. and around the world. State-sponsored media outlets have also used the platform to speak with American audiences. FIE 2020 discusses RT, Sputnik, PressTV and Global Times Twitter activity surrounding U.S. election integrity.