“The Impact of Russian Tweets, If Any, Was Limited”

Zeit Online

Did Donald Trump only become president thanks to Russian trolls? That explanation is too simple, argues a group of researchers. They found no evidence for it in a study.

The fact that Donald Trump was elected U.S. president in 2016 was partly due to the fact that Russian actors had influenced the electorate through ads and social media posts ­– at least that’s the gist of press reports and books on the subject. Researchers repeatedly proved that there were large-scale efforts from Russia to create sentiment for Trump and against Hillary Clinton on social networks. 

What is more difficult to measure is how much influence messages from Russian trolls actually had. For some time now, evidence has been mounting in research that there has been a tendency to overestimate their impact. A recent study, published in the journal Nature Communications, has concluded that Russian efforts on Twitter had virtually no impact on the election results.

 Jan Zilinsky is one of the authors of the study. The Slovakian-born economist works at the School of Social Sciences & Technology at the Technical University of Munich. His research focuses on how voters’ positions are influenced