While the full extent of its damage to US democracy is still unsure, Russian-inspired information changed America’s political landscape in significant ways, writes Molly K. McKew of Wired. The aim wasn’t to change people’s votes, but to harden their existing beliefs and affect their behavior, such as discouraging liberals from voting. Online, Russian content became a part of the internet’s political ecosystem, inspiring real people to spread it. Significantly, it sought to normalize certain ideas in the minds of Americans, so they’d be more likely to believe them. Russia’s effect on the 2016 election was unquestionably substantial.
While Russia certainly tried to influence the result of the 2016 election, the type of content that it spread was unlikely to make an actual difference, believes Jim Geraghty of National Review. Cartoonish and over-the-top images such as Hillary Clinton being the devil and fighting with Jesus Christ probably only appealed to those who were already on the far end of the political spectrum. Their vote was probably decided already. Much of the content was similarly exaggerated. Even Facebook’s VP argued that Russia’s effect was minimal. Assertions that these kinds of posts would have swung the election are somewhat farfetched.