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Doug Jones calls for investigation into disinformation campaign during his Senate run
Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) is asking federal authorities to conduct an investigation into whether disinformation tactics similar to those used by Russian hackers were used in his Senate race last year.
Jones's call for a federal investigation comes after a report in The New York Times that said New Knowledge, a cybersecurity research firm, experimented with using social media posts spreading disinformation in the 2017 Alabama Senate race.
Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of New Knowledge, said he used the disinformation posts - which he said were similar to those used by Russia in the 2016 election - to test whether or not the method worked.
Jones said he was "outraged" by the report.
"What is obvious now is that we have focused so much on Russia that we haven't focused on the fact that people in this country could take the same playbook and do the same damn thing," Jones told Politico. "I'd like to see the [Federal Election Commission] and the Justice Department look at this and see if any laws are being violated or were violated. And if there were, do it. Go after them."
Jones said the investigation into the practice needs to go beyond just a congressional hearing.
"It needs to not just be a congressional inquiry. People get called in front of Congress all the damn time. There needs to be a look to see if there were any laws that were broke," he said.
Jones defeated Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate special election that was triggered when former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) was appointed attorney general. Moore was dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct from multiple women, including some who said he assaulted them as teenagers.
"I'm concerned it's going to happen again to me, to my opponent, to my colleagues up here, to the people in the House, to the president, to the people who are going to run against the president. This should not happen to anyone in this country. We have got to take steps to protect our electoral system," Jones said.
New Knowledge was among the companies that authored reports for the Senate Intelligence Committee given this week that showed how Russian's meddled in the 2016 election and how rampant its efforts were.
The experiment conducted in the Alabama Senate race was on a much smaller scale than the ones the Russians did, Morgan told the Times.
"The research project was intended to help us understand how these kind of campaigns operated," Morgan said. "We thought it was useful to work in the context of a real election but design it to have almost no impact."