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Security

US reportedly took Russian trolls offline on Election Day in 2018

The reported goal was to stop misinformation from spreading as voters went to the polls.

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James Martin/CNET

The US agency responsible for military cyber operations cut off internet connectivity at the Internet Research Agency in Russia on the day of the 2018 midterm elections, according to a report in The Washington Post on Tuesday.

The US Cyber Command "basically took the IRA offline," according to an unnamed source that spoke with the Post.

The organization has been named by US intelligence agencies as a troll farm that hires people to pose as US residents and spread online content that sows division on major social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Reddit. The agency became associated with the effort in 2016 to spread divisive content based on materials stolen by hackers from US political organizations. 

Many government agencies feared the same thing would happen again in the 2018 elections. Officials at the US Department of Homeland Security said in early November that these coordinated troll efforts could be most damaging if they sowed doubt in the result of the elections.

The National Security Agency, which oversees the Cyber Command, declined to comment. Joseph Holstead, a Cyber Command spokesman, declined to confirm the report.

"We do not discuss classified cyberspace planning and operations," Holstead said in an emailed statement. "US Cyber Command will continue to work as part of the whole-of-government effort to defend our elections and democratic institutions from foreign malign influence, in line with the National Defense and DoD Cyber strategies."

Despite the reported campaign to take the Internet Research Agency offline, there were still reports of misinformation on Election Day.