Russia Used Facebook to Undermine U.S. Energy Projects: Report

Russian agents use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media tools to spread propaganda and try to turn U.S. public opinion against domestic energy production, House Republicans said in a report released Thursday.

According to Bloomberg, the report found that between 2015 and 2017, “an estimated 9,097 Russian posts or tweets regarding U.S. energy policy or a current energy event,” such as approval of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, appeared on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

In addition, 4,334 social media accounts connected to a Russian agency that manipulates media platforms spread across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, the report says.

Investigators with the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology found that Russian agents made a concerted effort to exploit social media platforms with messaging aimed at disrupting U.S. energy markets, the report – a result of months of document reviews, says.

“This report reveals that Russian agents created and spread propaganda on U.S. social media platforms in an obvious attempt to influence the U.S. energy market,” committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said in a written statement on Russia President Vladimir Putin’s motives.

In September, Smith sent letters requesting information from Facebook and Twitter. The committee chairman was building on a previous investigation into allegations of surreptitious Russian government funding of U.S. environmental organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club Foundation, and the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund to spread propaganda against drilling techniques used to extract natural gas.

Smith followed up with letters to Twitter and Facebook the next month, supplying more information about his committee’s findings and thanking them for being responsive.

“The information received from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram shows that Russian agents indeed sought to disrupt U.S. energy markets and influence domestic energy policy by exploiting American social media platforms,” the report says.

These same social media companies were able to link Russian accounts with the Internet Research Agency, based in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Moscow created the agency “for the purpose of deceptively using various social and traditional media platforms to advance Russian propaganda,” the new report says.