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.

Confirmed Cases: 93087

Reported Deaths: 2809
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds6956155
DeSoto539355
Harrison372772
Jackson337867
Madison320086
Rankin318875
Lee258567
Jones239978
Forrest238270
Washington217471
Lafayette207239
Lauderdale1994124
Bolivar179065
Oktibbeha174750
Lamar162134
Neshoba1534103
Panola144027
Sunflower141144
Lowndes139857
Warren138050
Leflore136280
Pontotoc122516
Pike120948
Monroe118365
Scott116125
Copiah115933
Coahoma112327
Holmes109158
Marshall107515
Lincoln106253
Grenada105335
Yazoo103629
Simpson101243
Union97824
Tate95137
Leake93937
Adams91736
Wayne87421
Pearl River86250
Marion84133
Prentiss80817
Covington80622
Alcorn76811
Newton75623
Itawamba75221
Tallahatchie74918
George74413
Winston72319
Tishomingo65737
Chickasaw65224
Tippah64216
Attala64125
Walthall59325
Clay57117
Hancock56121
Jasper54915
Noxubee54315
Clarke53539
Smith52114
Calhoun50612
Tunica47913
Montgomery45420
Claiborne45116
Lawrence42512
Yalobusha41614
Perry40617
Humphreys37315
Quitman3735
Stone35011
Greene34317
Webster33113
Jefferson Davis32511
Amite31210
Carroll31212
Wilkinson30217
Kemper28615
Sharkey26312
Jefferson2399
Benton2181
Franklin1893
Choctaw1785
Issaquena1033
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 128818

Reported Deaths: 2284
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson18911337
Mobile13039289
Montgomery8628173
Madison750775
Tuscaloosa7180114
Lee570559
Shelby564550
Baldwin504749
Marshall382143
Etowah333447
Calhoun332039
Morgan318126
Houston269922
Elmore251947
DeKalb234619
St. Clair221335
Walker220780
Talladega205026
Limestone197319
Cullman183017
Franklin174128
Dallas173626
Russell17112
Autauga167324
Lauderdale164133
Colbert159326
Escambia155725
Blount154214
Jackson149411
Chilton147127
Dale132743
Covington130227
Coffee12708
Pike11519
Tallapoosa113183
Chambers112342
Clarke104917
Marion93728
Butler90838
Barbour8307
Marengo69919
Winston69912
Lowndes64527
Pickens63114
Bibb62810
Hale61228
Randolph60712
Bullock58514
Lawrence58220
Monroe5758
Geneva5634
Cherokee55516
Washington54413
Perry5376
Clay5367
Wilcox53011
Conecuh52311
Crenshaw52231
Macon47620
Henry4674
Fayette4189
Sumter41819
Lamar3452
Choctaw34412
Cleburne3206
Greene30015
Coosa1613
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