Schar School Researchers Find Foreign Interference, More Than $200,000 of GoFundMe Money in Missouri Senate Race

Schar School student volunteers debrief John Fuisz, left at the table, and A. Trevor Thrall, right at the table. Photo: Buzz McClain/Schar School of Policy and Government

Researchers at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, in conjunction with SSR Industries of Cambridge, Mass. and Washington, D.C., have discovered evidence of foreign manipulation in the 2018 Missouri Senate race.

Focusing on 27 key Twitter accounts identified by SSR Industries’ proprietary technology, the research team of 26 volunteer students noticed a number of odd behaviors in the account data. This included references to issues identified as topics of interest for Russian trolling operations in the recent Department of Justice criminal complaint against Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova.

In addition, the research team discovered references from these accounts to GoFundMe accounts that were pushed through the Twitter network. The funding campaigns, which have raised anywhere from several thousand to over $200,000, are largely related to military veterans and animals. What the funds were ultimately used for is unknown.

“The activities we have been tracking strongly suggest that the Russians are not only continuing to interfere in our elections, but continue to find new ways to do so," said A. Trevor Thrall, the Schar School associate professor of international security who is helping lead the project. 

“These latest findings indicate that interference is not limited to presidential elections or one candidate, but is a pervasive issue that the United States will need to come to terms with and begin addressing in a cohesive manner,” said John Fuisz of SSR Industries.

The data and a summary of the analysis to date are available at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/v1vqpht1ux6pnzt/AAATJXMbnhZl9ijZkwsY6C7ua?dl=0