Did they help Russia spread fake news during the election?
On Monday, FBI Director James Comey officially announced that his organization was investigating possible collusion between the Donald Trump presidential campaign and Russian authorities during the 2016 election. According to an anonymous U.S. intelligence source, the FBI investigation has spread to target far right-wing news outlets that may have also worked with the Kremlin to help Trump get elected.
According to the source, during the 2016 election, Russia launched multiple cyber operations that spread anti-Hillary Clinton news stories on social media at times when Trump was on the defense. Many of these stories were fictional, but in the days after the election, they were found to have a profound effect on promoting negative perceptions of Clinton. The investigation is looking closely at Breitbart News, Infowars, and the Russian state-sponsored Russia Today and Sputnik.
The Breitbart News organization has especially close ties to the Trump administration. The news outlet, which has been criticized for promoting a white nationalist agenda, was previously led by White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. And Breitbart News’ former national security editor, Sebastian Gorka, someone with long ties to Hungarian Nazi groups, currently works as a Trump administration counterterrorism advisor.
The Trump administration has also embraced Infowars, a website run by Alex Jones. He’s known for promoting right-wing conspiracy theories, like the one that accused Hillary Clinton of running a child sex ring out of a D.C.-area pizza restaurant. Infowars has been a vocal supporter of Trump, and Jones has said he acts as an advisor to the president. Time will tell whether these organizations colluded with the Russian government but, in the meantime, perhaps the FBI should also investigate why this fringe element has such a hold on the president.