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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: 295295

Reported Deaths: 6724
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19672230
Hinds18799386
Harrison16710278
Rankin12685264
Jackson12592226
Lee9687160
Madison9457199
Jones7962146
Forrest7208136
Lauderdale6833226
Lowndes6022137
Lamar588080
Lafayette5733113
Washington5218130
Bolivar4609123
Oktibbeha441393
Panola430394
Pearl River4167130
Warren4129114
Pontotoc408869
Marshall403192
Monroe3989126
Union395374
Neshoba3807168
Lincoln3541102
Hancock347374
Leflore3375118
Sunflower318386
Tate302474
Pike300195
Scott293870
Alcorn291861
Itawamba289975
Yazoo289262
Tippah278765
Copiah277857
Coahoma277568
Simpson274878
Prentiss269758
Wayne253841
Marion252678
Leake252471
Covington248879
Grenada247377
Adams234377
George231745
Newton229652
Winston221675
Jasper213445
Tishomingo212365
Attala206569
Chickasaw201151
Holmes182270
Clay179150
Stone172429
Tallahatchie170539
Clarke169371
Calhoun157828
Smith152731
Yalobusha144836
Greene127633
Walthall124140
Noxubee122829
Montgomery122438
Perry121634
Lawrence120321
Carroll118225
Amite111533
Webster110630
Jefferson Davis101731
Tunica99023
Claiborne98429
Benton93324
Humphreys92827
Kemper90223
Quitman77114
Franklin76119
Choctaw69516
Jefferson62527
Wilkinson62426
Sharkey48817
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 493769

Reported Deaths: 9931
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson710731374
Mobile36139727
Madison32425455
Tuscaloosa24184410
Montgomery22586500
Shelby21968215
Baldwin19758283
Lee14967153
Morgan13667251
Calhoun13300286
Etowah13184319
Marshall11262209
Houston10104261
Elmore9385185
Limestone9363134
Cullman8897181
St. Clair8827223
Lauderdale8607211
DeKalb8459175
Talladega7523163
Walker6524255
Jackson6495102
Autauga627091
Blount6102127
Colbert6004118
Coffee5249102
Dale4642107
Russell404930
Franklin399177
Covington3960106
Chilton3876100
Escambia377672
Tallapoosa3588142
Clarke343650
Chambers3413110
Dallas3403141
Pike293472
Lawrence283484
Marion281995
Winston246867
Bibb245060
Geneva239970
Marengo236455
Pickens224654
Barbour211651
Hale210568
Fayette200756
Butler196866
Henry182441
Cherokee177038
Monroe166139
Randolph163740
Washington156535
Crenshaw144854
Clay144454
Macon142043
Cleburne137839
Lamar132833
Lowndes131151
Wilcox121825
Bullock116936
Conecuh106724
Perry105627
Sumter98531
Coosa88923
Greene88232
Choctaw55123
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