As if launching cyberattacks against state election agencies was not bad enough, Russian trolls have now outdone themselves. The Russians are now confirmed to have posted a video so heinous that it could be considered a WMD, a weapon of mass distraction. Yes, it's true. The Russians were responsible for a Hillary Clinton sex tape.
A joke went around the internet in 2016 that warned, “If you get an email that says it's a Hillary Clinton sex tape, don't click the link!” The punch line added, “It's really a sex tape of Hillary Clinton.”
In this case, the video is not authentic. NBC News reports that the video was traced back to a Reddit account known to be a Russian front. The account, Rubinjer, has already been shut down, but was one of Russia's most popular known accounts with more than 100,000 up-votes.
The sex tape was posted to two popular porn sites, which we won't name here, before the 2016 election. (If you want to see it for some reason, you'll have to find it for yourself.)
To their credit, internet users were skeptical of the claim that the video featured Hillary. “If it’s her I think we'd see her face at least once,” once user commented.
A whistleblower from Russia's Internet Research Agency, a notorious troll farm, told Russia's TV Rain last year that the video was produced by the group. “We did the most ridiculous things we could think of,” Alan Baskaev said, adding that he feared retaliation for speaking out.
It's doubtful that the sex video had any effect on the election, but it does show the lengths to which the Russians went to stir up public opinion in the United States during the election. The video was clearly an illicit attempt to influence the outcome of the election.
It also is a warning sign for future elections. The video of Hillary Clinton was not believable, but as technology gets better and the Russians get more adept at understanding American politics, future attempts might not be so transparent. Would a video that purported to feature Donald Trump be so laughable? What about Ted Cruz or Mike Pence?
In an era of high stakes and closely fought elections, it is more and more likely that Russian trolls can influence enough voters to sway an election. Given that the aim of Russia is to destabilize and weaken the United States there is no guarantee which candidate will be given their backing next time.
So carefully consider what you watch and read on the internet. If it sounds too stupid to be true, it probably is (although in this day and age it is difficult to be sure). If it seems far-fetched, then you should at least check with other reliable sources before believing and spreading it.
And, by the way, if you see a link for a Hillary Clinton sex tape, don't click on it.
Originally published to the Resurgent