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Oxford University social media expert alleges Russia may meddle in India, Brazil elections

An Oxford University social media expert, Philip N. Howard has allegedly told US lawmakers, during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Foreign Influence on Social Media platforms that Russia may interfere in the upcoming India and Brazil elections by targeting the media.

Howard did not elaborate on his allegations. The situation could be more dangerous in those countries where the media is not as professional as that of the US, he said.

“The United States actually has the most professionalized media in the world. It’s learned certainly to evaluate their sources and no longer report tweets as is given,” Howard said.

“I would say that the greater concern would be amongst the media institutions in our democratic allies. I believe that the Russians have moved from targeting us, in particular, to Brazil and India; other enormous democracies that will be running elections in the next few years,” Howard said.

“While we still see significant Russian activity, those countries have the media institutions that need learn, need to develop,” Howard said.

The Senate committee had held the hearing with primary focus on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections. Vice Chairman Senator Mark Warner, who co-chairs the Senate India Caucas, alleged that Russia’s active measures have revealed a dark underbelly of the social media system.

“These same tools that spread misinformation can negatively affect other aspects of our lives,” Warner said. He observed that the U.S is not well-positioned to detect, track or counter these types of influence operations on social media.

Earlier, on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump ordered Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, in a tweet, to end the wide-ranging probe into Russian election meddling and possible ties between his campaign and Moscow, calling it as “a disgrace” to the country.

The investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller is currently examining the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on bank and tax fraud charges.

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