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Indictment: Russia Targeted Colorado In Election Meddling

By Karen Morfitt

DENVER (CBS4)- The Russians targeted Colorado among other states in a campaign to meddle in our elections, according to a federal indictment.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein detailed the information Friday afternoon.

"The defendants allegedly conducted what they called informational warfare against the United States with the stated goal of stating distrust of the candidates and the political system in general," Rosenstein said.

Election Day 2012 In Colorado
A ballot drop-off box in Arapahoe County. (credit: CBS)

The indictment says the groups' 13 conspirators posed as Americans belonging to different grassroots organizations.

"They established social media pages and groups to communicate with unwitting Americans," he continued.

Facebook (credit: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Information from actual Americans-- led the Russian group members to focus their efforts on "purple states" Colorado among them.

At least two of the Russians traveled to those states "gathering intelligence."

(credit: CBS)

According to the U.S Department of Justice, the indictment does not allege that any Americans were knowingly involved--and they do not believe the Russian meddling altered the outcome of the 2016 election.

"The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators waned t to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy, we must not allow them to succeed," Rosenstein said.

Wayne Williams CO Sect.of State Control A Clean_frame_11559
Secretary of State Wayne Williams (credit: CBS)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams is in Washington, D.C.

His office says they are reviewing the indictment -- and hope to have new information next week.

One professor in Colorado is reminding social media users, "we're charged with finding the ground truth."

Dr. Steve Beaty is a Professor of Computer Science at MSU Denver.

"The approximation is 10 percent of all Twitter posts are not actually from one a person nor 2 truthful and so it's very difficult to separate the good from the bad," said Beaty. "It kind of falls back on us to say, 'Okay what is the truth here?'"

It's this kind of question he says he is constantly asking his students.

"What is it that we as a society, as individuals, what are the ethical implications of the tech that we have created?"

Companies like Facebook and recently Twitter have made efforts to weed out the fake accounts. It recently suspended dozens of accounts believed to be connected to Russian propaganda.

Beaty says he believes the efforts of companies to stop the spread of false information is well-informed but is concerned about the pace at which the information is coming in.

He says take YouTube for instance, "Something like 600 hours of video is uploaded for a single minute and keeping up with that kind of traffic is extraordinarily difficult."

He continued, "The only thing I think we're essentially charged with doing is finding out the ground truth. Going to the original sources if you will."

- Jamie Leary contributed to this report.

Karen Morfitt joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around the Denver metro area. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.

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