Russian 2016 Influence Operation Targeted African-Americans on Social Media

The Russian marketing campaign was the topic of Senate hearings final yr and has been broadly scrutinized by tutorial specialists. The new studies largely affirm earlier findings: that the marketing campaign was designed to assault Hillary Clinton, enhance Mr. Trump and exacerbate current divisions in American society.

But the New Knowledge report offers explicit consideration to the Russians’ focus on African-Americans, which is obvious to anybody who examines collections of their memes and messages.

“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,” the report says. Using Gmail accounts with American-sounding names, the Russians recruited and typically paid unwitting American activists of all races to stage rallies and unfold content material, however there was a disproportionate pursuit of African-Americans, it concludes.

The report says that whereas “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.” In some circumstances, Facebook adverts have been focused at customers who had proven curiosity specifically subjects, together with black historical past, the Black Panther Party and Malcolm X. The hottest of the Russian Instagram accounts was @blackstagram, with 303,663 followers.

The Internet Research Agency additionally created a dozen web sites disguised as African-American in origin, with names like,, and On YouTube, the most important share of Russian materials lined the Black Lives Matter motion and police brutality, with channels referred to as “Don’t Shoot” and “BlackToLive.”

The report doesn’t search to clarify the heavy focus on African Americans. But the Internet Research Agency’s techniques echo Soviet propaganda efforts from a long time in the past that always highlighted racism and racial battle within the United States, in addition to latest Russian affect operations in different international locations that sought to stir ethnic strife.

Renee DiResta, one of many report’s authors and director of analysis at New Knowledge, stated the Internet Research Agency “leveraged pre-existing, legitimate grievances wherever they could.” As the election effort equipped, the Black Lives Matter motion was on the middle of nationwide consideration within the United States, so the Russian operation took benefit of it, she stated — and added “Blue Lives Matter” materials when a pro-police pushback emerged.

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