Russian company linked to nearly 600 Twitter accounts questioning ACA

A new analysis by Clemson (S.C.) University researchers and shared with The Wall Street Journal revealed nearly 600 Twitter accounts tweeting ACA information meant to further polarize voters were linked to a Russian company.

Researchers tied roughly 600 accounts to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company that engages an online influence campaign that seeks to further polarize American voters on a number of issues, including healthcare. A group of 10,000 tweets tied to the accounts typically focused on controversial issues like Hillary Clinton's emails or NFL players' kneeling. However, a significant number of the tweets targeted divisive policy areas, such as healthcare.

The Clemson University researchers provided WSJ with a set of 9,800 healthcare policy and ACA tweets the Internet Research Agency posted from 2014 through May 2018. According to WSJ's own analysis of the tweets, 80 percent of the them had conservative-leaning political messages often disparaging the ACA.

U.S. intelligence officials consider the Internet Research Agency a sophisticated, Kremlin-backed organization that ran a secret operation to influence the 2016 U.S. elections. The group has since become the subject of multiple federal and congressional investigations, WSJ reports.

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in May found Russian bots have spread misinformation about a number of healthcare issues, including vaccines, as well as divisive messages about the ACA. Pro-ACA tweets peaked around spring 2016, while anti-ACA tweets increased during mid-2017, as the GOP mounted its efforts to repeal the law, according to information cited by WSJ.

The Russian accounts would often retweet respected analysts and pop culture figures, and latch on to ACA-related events, like congressional votes. The accounts also likely used ACA-centered tweets to gain personal information from Americans they may later exploit, the report states.

WSJ reports Twitter has since shut down the accounts, but similar accounts and channels continue to surface, some experts told the publication.

To access the full report, click here.

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