U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, both of whom serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Wednesday that attempts by Russian agents to create discord on social media are not limited to presidential politics.
Collins said during a hearing Wednesday in Washington, D.C., that Russian-created Facebook pages have gone after Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
She said three posts by the Russian-linked Internet Research Agency in 2016 attacked him with untruths, saying he “called up white people to kill blacks.” She said a different Russian-created Facebook in August of this year defended LePage’s comments about Confederate monuments and criticized liberals who are “acting like terrorists.”
“The primary purpose of Russians’ active measures is to exploit and aggravate the divisions in American society and to undermine public confidence in our democratic institutions,” said Collins during the hearing.
King said during a conference call to reporters Wednesday afternoon that the Russians are meddling in more than just politics in their attempts to meddle in American society and politics. King called for strict international penalties for this kind of activity and for disclosure rules around social media posts.
“Foreign powers, in this case the Russians, have to understand that there is a price to be paid for this type of attack on our country,” said King. “Right now, it’s a freebie. They’ve completely disrupted this country over the past 6 months and they’re not paying any price for it.”
Facebook, Twitter and Google all pledged to do more and said they understood the seriousness of Russian meddling in U.S. politics.
LePage’s office did not respond to questions about these revelations from the Bangor Daily News.
BDN State House bureau chief Christopher Cousins and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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