The Russian social media campaign against the United States targeted no single group more than African Americans, a new federal report has concluded.
The report from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe into the 2016 election comes as social media companies attempt to prevent further disinformation and disruption of American democracy.
Moscow’s efforts — led by the Internet Research Agency (IRA) — were sophisticated and multifaceted, targeting the black community and sowing division across a range of platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Google-owned YouTube and Instagram. The shadowy effort aimed to support the Trump campaign, denigrate opponent Hillary Clinton, suppress the vote and attack various public figures.
According to the report, more than 66 percent of Facebook advertisements posted by the IRA contained a term related to race.
Posts with titles like “Our Votes Don’t Matter,” “Don’t Vote for Hillary Clinton” and “A Vote for Jill Stein is Not a Wasted Vote” were specifically aimed at black voters, the report says.
Oxford’s Computational Research Project, which is cited in the Senate report, captured a number of images of posts from that time.
Some of the posts deliberately did not contain certain racial slurs, to avoid being flagged by content moderators, while others mimicked existing social justice movements in America in order to sow division among different ethnic and racial groups.
Facebook claims to have doubled the number of people working on safety and security and met with federal officials recently on election security matters.
“We have stepped up our efforts to build strong defenses on multiple fronts. … We have also invested in technology and people to block and remove fake accounts; find and remove coordinated manipulation campaigns; and bring unprecedented transparency to political advertising,” Facebook said in a statement to BBC News.