Alabama AG to review if Senate race tactics violated law

Alabama's attorney general said Thursday that his office is reviewing whether allegedly deceptive social media tactics used in last year's U.S. Senate race might have violated the law.

Posted: Dec 28, 2018 4:13 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama's attorney general said Thursday that his office is reviewing whether allegedly deceptive social media tactics used in last year's U.S. Senate race might have violated the law.

Attorney General Steve Marshall told The Washington Post that reports about the effort are concerning. He said he wants to explore the issue, but stopped short of saying that his office is opening a formal investigation.

"The impact it had on the election is something that's significant for us to explore, and we'll go from there," Marshall, a Republican, told the newspaper.

The Washington Post and New York Times reported that a social media researcher acknowledged testing misleading online tactics during Sen. Doug Jones' 2017 campaign against Republican Roy Moore.

The newspapers said operators posed as conservative voters on a Facebook page and that Twitter accounts were used to make it appear that Russian bots were following Moore.

Rich Hobson, who was Moore's campaign manager in the 2017 race, said the campaign reported concerns to social media platforms last year.

"We suspected that someone or some group was interfering and we complained to Facebook as early as June 2017," Hobson told The Associated Press on Thursday.

It is unclear how far the effort reached.

Some news outlets reported last year about Moore's campaign receiving a swell in Twitter followers with Russian names. The Moore campaign said at the time it had reported the matter to Twitter, and suggested political opponents were behind the matter and were trying to plant a negative story with media members.

Hobson said he could not recall the name of a Facebook page that raised concern.

The newspapers reported that Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of Texas-based research firm New Knowledge, acknowledged being paid by American Engagement Technologies to experiment on a small scale.

Morgan in a statement last week said his involvement was as a researcher with "the intention to better understand and report on the tactics and effects of social media disinformation."

"I did not participate in any campaign to influence the public and any characterization to the contrary misrepresents the research goals, methods and outcomes of the project," Morgan said in a statement.

The reports drew condemnation on both sides of the political aisle in Alabama, where Jones recently marked a year since becoming the first Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from the state in a quarter-century.

Jones called for an investigation into the matter. He told reporters last week that his campaign didn't know anything about the effort at the time. And Jones says he is "as outraged as everyone else" about the allegations.

Alabama Republican Party Chairwoman Terry Lathan called the revelation "deeply disturbing."

Internet entrepreneur Reid Hoffman this week apologized for donations he made that he said unknowingly helped fund the effort.

"I categorically disavow the use of misinformation to sway an election," Hoffman wrote.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said Thursday that there were multiple concerns raised during the 2017 race about misleading social media tactics.

Merrill said it is clear that there needs to be "more policing done by the social media platform executives."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 147382

Reported Deaths: 3763
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto973199
Hinds9668197
Harrison6898109
Jackson6178119
Rankin5319100
Lee487695
Madison4666106
Forrest371386
Jones346788
Lauderdale3355144
Lafayette317549
Washington3122107
Lamar283449
Oktibbeha240861
Bolivar240184
Lowndes229763
Neshoba2177115
Panola215849
Marshall209650
Leflore201490
Pontotoc196128
Monroe191477
Sunflower190555
Lincoln186865
Warren172657
Tate165451
Union163925
Pike160658
Copiah159540
Yazoo152039
Scott150729
Coahoma148743
Itawamba148234
Pearl River146567
Alcorn146327
Simpson145153
Prentiss141230
Adams137949
Grenada137745
Leake131943
Holmes126561
Tippah123030
George122324
Covington119737
Winston119124
Wayne116223
Hancock115939
Marion111646
Attala109833
Tishomingo106542
Chickasaw104132
Newton103629
Tallahatchie96327
Clarke88853
Clay87127
Jasper81222
Walthall75328
Stone73114
Calhoun72913
Montgomery72125
Carroll70614
Lawrence70314
Yalobusha70027
Noxubee69717
Smith69616
Perry65426
Tunica59619
Greene58422
Claiborne57616
Jefferson Davis55017
Humphreys52918
Amite51814
Benton48717
Quitman4816
Webster42114
Kemper41918
Wilkinson38722
Jefferson34211
Franklin3265
Choctaw3117
Sharkey30717
Issaquena1124
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 239318

Reported Deaths: 3532
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31391491
Mobile19562361
Tuscaloosa12813154
Madison12741146
Montgomery12198235
Shelby1000577
Baldwin847398
Lee764466
Morgan634348
Calhoun6112115
Marshall607954
Etowah606565
Houston517038
DeKalb474736
Cullman428038
Limestone413744
St. Clair409055
Elmore400762
Lauderdale393653
Walker3588108
Talladega343453
Jackson307624
Colbert301941
Blount285539
Autauga268641
Franklin247833
Coffee239715
Dale230354
Dallas224531
Russell22053
Chilton219638
Covington216833
Escambia197431
Chambers173749
Tallapoosa173391
Pike157514
Clarke156319
Marion136535
Winston129923
Lawrence124836
Geneva12028
Pickens119418
Marengo119124
Barbour117010
Bibb116217
Butler114441
Randolph100921
Cherokee100824
Hale94531
Clay90223
Washington90219
Fayette87316
Henry8496
Lowndes79129
Monroe78111
Cleburne75714
Macon72321
Crenshaw70730
Bullock69119
Conecuh68314
Perry6756
Lamar6508
Wilcox63118
Sumter57122
Choctaw41913
Greene41418
Coosa3374
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