A “Blacktivist” campaign on social media reportedly linked to the Russian government was created to exacerbate racial tensions during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In essence, the trolls used U.S.-based technology to exploit African American pain for political gain and to stoke the fears of white Americans.
Facebook listed the Blacktivist account among the 470 Russian-linked accounts reported to Congress earlier this month, sources with knowledge of the matter told CNN.
The matching Twitter account was among the approximately 200 accounts Twitter identified with links to those found by Facebook.
Twitter posts included:
“Black people should wake up as soon as possible.”
“Black families are divided and destroyed by mass incarceration and death of Black men.”
Both accounts also posted videos of police violence against Blacks. In August, Blacktivist posted a video on Facebook with the caption, “Watch another savage video of police brutality. We live under a system of racism and police are directly letting us know how they feel and where we stand.”
The two accounts ranked more in likes than the verified and official account of Black Lives Matter with 360,000 likes. The current number for Black Lives Matter is approximately 301,000.
“The Blacktivist accounts provide further evidence that Russian-linked social media accounts saw racial tensions as something to be exploited in order to achieve the broader Russian goal of dividing Americans and creating chaos in U.S. politics during a campaign in which race repeatedly became an issue,” according to CNN.
In addition to the “Blacktivist” accounts, on Monday it was revealed that Facebook advertisements linked to Russia also attempted to proliferate tensions in American society, as well as boost Republican Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
A Facebook ad showed the image of a Black woman wielding a rifle, according to The Washington Post. The ad showed the woman “dry firing” a rifle, which means the gun was unloaded while she pulled the trigger.
None of the 3,000 ads Facebook handed over to Congress on Monday have been made public, but anonymous sources told the Post that investigators believe the ad of the Black woman holding the gun “may have been designed to encourage African American militancy and, at the same time, to stoke fears within white communities. But the precise purpose of the ad remains unclear to investigators.”
At least one Black Lives Matter Facebook post under the Blacktivist account that appeared in late 2015 or early 2016 was geographically targeted through Facebook’s ad system toward Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., according to CNN. The ad had the semblance of both as supporting Black Lives Matter and portraying the group as threatening to some residents of Baltimore and Ferguson.
The Oscar winning-actor declared the U.S. has been “attacked” and is “at war” — prompting Russian officials and media to paint Freeman as crazy.
Facebook said in a statement Monday that approximately 10 million people in the U.S. saw politically divisive ads on the social media site, which were purchased by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm based in St. Petersburg, in the months before and after last year’s U.S. presidential election.
Facebook used modeling to estimate how many people saw at least one of the 3,000 ads, concluding that 44 percent of the ads were seen before the November 2016 election and 56 percent were seen afterward. For 50 percent of the ads, less than $3 was spent; for 99 percent of the ads, less than $1,000 was spent.
One of the ads featured photos of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton behind prison bars.
“This echoed calls by Trump and his supporters during campaign events to ‘Lock Her Up’ — imprison Clinton for using a private email server while she was secretary of state,” according to the Post.
The ads also included “harsh language and imagery about illegal immigrants.”
Moscow has denied involvement with the ads, Reuters reports.
As the ads have sparked anger against Facebook, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has publicly outlined steps that the company plans to take to deter governments from abusing the social media network, including making advertising more transparent, strengthening enforcement against improper ads, tightening restrictions on advertiser content, increasing requirements for authenticity and establishing industry standards and best practices.
Facebook also said in a separate statement that it plans to hire 1,000 more people to the global ads review teams over the next year as part of an effort to deter Russia and other countries from using the platform to interfere in elections.