Russian Woman Charged in First 2018 Election Meddling Case

Christopher Krebs, undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security's National Protection and Programs Directorate, speaks during a news conference on election cyber security, Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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The U.S. has accused a Russian woman of helping oversee the finances of a sweeping, secretive effort to sway American public opinion through social media in the first federal case alleging foreign interference in the 2018 midterm elections.

The charges allege that Ms Khusyaynova, who lives in St Petersburg – continues to engage in “information warfare against the United States” by managing a so-called troll farm which posts inflammatory content online.

“The strategic goal of this alleged conspiracy, which continues to this day, is to sow discord in the US political system and to undermine faith in our democratic institutions,” US Attorney Zachary Terwilliger said in a statement.

She is charged with conspiracy to defraud the US.

Ms Khusyaynova is accused of running a program called Project Lakhta, in which her team created online arguments and misinformation to spark division among Americans.

The program allegedly used social media and other platforms to discuss topics including immigration, gun control, gun rights, the Confederate flag, race relations, LGBT issues, the Women’s March and the NFL national anthem debate, according to the justice department.

Project Lakhta has a budget of $35m (£27m), but not all of their projects are directed at the US, according to officials.

US authorities say their “activities did not exclusively adopt one ideological view; they wrote on topics from varied and sometimes opposing perspectives”.

“Members of the conspiracy were directed, among other things, to create ‘political intensity through supporting radical groups’ and to ‘aggravate the conflict between minorities and the rest of the population’.”

The conspirators also “took extraordinary steps” to appear as American political activists, officials say, by creating “thousands of social media and email accounts” that gave the illusion that they were operated by US citizens.

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