Russians used social media to target African-American voters during the 2016 presidential election to help get President Donald Trump elected, according to a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Kremlin-backed Russians used platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to suppress the Democratic vote and upend American politics, according to the New York Times.
Meddling by the Russians did not end once Trump was elected, according to cybersecurity company New Knowledge, which helped produce the report for the Senate Intelligence Committee, alongside Columbia University researchers. “Active and ongoing interference operations remain on several platforms,” it said.
Internet Research Agency (IRA), a St. Petersburg company that helped spearhead the Russian influence campaign two years ago, used fake names on almost all social media platforms, to help drum up support for Trump as far back as the Republican Primaries.
American activists, regardless of their race and who were unaware that they were targeted, were paid by the Russians, who used Gmail accounts with American-sounding names, to share content and to host rallies, according to the Times.
“The most prolific I.R.A. efforts on Facebook and Instagram specifically targeted Black American communities and appear to have been focused on developing Black audiences and recruiting Black Americans as assets,” according to the New Knowledge report. Adding that while “other distinct ethnic and religious groups were the focus of one or two Facebook Pages or Instagram accounts; the black community was targeted extensively with dozens.”
It is unclear why Black Americans were targeted by the Russians, but voter turnout during the 2016 election was the lowest in 20 years, per the Times.
“Very real racial tensions and feelings of alienation exist in America, and have for decades,” said Renee DiResta, New Knowledge’s director of research. “The I.R.A. didn’t create them. It exploits them.”
Click here to read “The Tactic & Tropes of the Internet Research Agency.”
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Teddy is a multimedia journalist who serves as the culture and political writer for EBONY. His work has appeared in NBC's Owned and Operated stations, as well as DNAInfo, which covered local neighborhood news in New York City. He received his Masters in Journalism from the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY in 2017.