Social Media Snare: Russia’s Influence in the U.S. Energy Markets

Magnifying glass of 'facts' with lies around itThe U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is reporting that Russia has attempted to meddle in the domestic energy markets via exploitative social media tactics. The Majority Staff Report, Russian Attempts to Influence U.S. Domestic Energy Markets by Exploiting Social Media, was released on March 1, and publicized in a press release. According to Lamar Smith, the Chairman of the Committee, “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. […]  The American people deserve to know if what they see on social media is the creation of a foreign power seeking to undermine our domestic energy policy.” From the report, the key findings are as follows:

— Between 2015 and 2017, there were an estimated 9,097 Russian posts or tweets regarding
U.S. energy policy or a current energy event on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

— Between 2015 and 2017, there were an estimated 4,334 IRA [Internet Research Agency]accounts across Twitter,
Facebook, and Instagram.

— According to information provided by Twitter, more than four percent of all IRA tweets
were related to energy or environmental issues, a significant portion of content when
compared to the eight percent of IRA tweets that were related to the election in the U.S.

— Russia exploited American social media as part of its concerted effort to disrupt U.S.
energy markets and influence domestic energy policy.

–The IRA targeted pipelines, fossil fuels, climate change, and other divisive issues to
influence public policy in the U.S.

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were used by Russians to target geographically important audiences in order to influence domestic opinion on topics such as fracking, fossil fuels, and climate change. However, perhaps the biggest area of attempted influence was pipeline construction and protesting pipeline construction. Russian agents engaged with Americans on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), Sabal Trail, Keystone XL, Bayou Bridge, and Enbridge Line 5, and fed propaganda to both pro-pipeline construction and anti-pipeline construction groups online. The accounts used by the Russian agents were successfully linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Saint Petersburg-based company created by the Russian government “for the purpose of deceptively using various social and traditional media platforms to advance Russian propaganda.” The House Committee’s findings come just one year after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence revealed in a 2017 report [read it here] that it found “clear evidence that the Kremlin is financing and choreographing anti-fracking propaganda in the United States.” In the conclusion of the report, the House Committee restates that it will continue striving to a) identify foreign propaganda and b) work with social media companies to increase transparency so that the American public can make informed decisions on critical issues without false and disruptive foreign interference.