- The Washington Times - Friday, July 12, 2019

Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala D. Harris claimed Friday that her White House campaign is on the receiving end of a Russian effort to interfere in the 2020 race.

Ms. Harris, California Democrat, said during an interview that her presidential campaign is being targeted online by automated social media accounts, or bots, of Russian origin.

Appearing on “The Breakfast Club” radio program, the first-term senator made the remark while speaking about Russian interference efforts and particularly the use of bots to amplify politically charged messages.

In response to being asked whether she believes her campaign could come under fire from Russian bots, Ms. Harris answered: “Oh, we already know we are.”

Ms. Harris did not cite specific examples, and her campaign did not immediately return a message seeking additional information.

Researchers reported weeks earlier that bots were likely behind a sudden surge in social media posts critical of Ms. Harris, however.

The daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father, Ms. Harris accurately described herself as the only black participant on stage during one of two televised debates held last month to accommodate the crowded pool of Democratic presidential hopefuls. The claim was quickly challenged on Twitter by conservative critics, including Ali Alexander, a right-wing media personality who tweeted the senator is “not an American Black. Period.”

Several researchers later reported that similar tweets were subsequently echoed by suspected bots, including accounts previously linked to spreading disinformation in the past.

Discussing the role they previously played in amplifying misinformation online – namely the baseless “Pizzagate” conspiracy that targeted former presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton during her 2016 campaign — Ms. Harris cautioned during the interview that seemingly “ridiculous” claims can still cause a commotion if boosted by bots.

“It’ll be others and those bots that stir it up to the point that it generates heat, and then people start getting swept into it,” she warned.

An investigation into Russian election interference conducted by the Department of Justice special counsel’s office concluded that the Internet Research Agency, a so-called “troll farm” accused of meddling in the race, used a network of bot accounts to amplify politically charged content on Twitter during the 2016 race. The Russian government has denied responsibility.

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