It has been proven that a Russian group used social media to organize a march last November in New York City, that took place a few days after the election and allowed thousands of protesters to organize and disrupt American democracy reports The Hill.
The march that got around sixteen thousand Facebook users to say they planned on attending the protest on Nov. 12, 2016 was organized by the Facebook page for BlackMattersUS, which is a Russian-linked group that sought to capitalize on racial tensions growing in the U.S.
The event was shared by 61,000 users on Facebook, and as many as 5,000 to 10,000 protesters actually showed up at Manhattan’s Union Square. This Russian group took advantage of the left’s hatred for Trump’s recent election on Nov. 8 and it was the fourth consecutive anti-Trump really to be held in New York following election night.
“Join us in the streets! Stop Trump and his bigoted agenda!” reads the Facebook event page for the rally. “Divided is the reason we just fell. We must unite despite our differences to stop HATE from ruling the land.”
While a lot of the media is focusing on Russia’s efforts to influence the election before election night and the possible collusion that went on in the Trump campaign, everyone is ignoring what Russia did after the election.
These Facebook ads and other social media organized events that were made by Russian groups would obviously not be organized by Republicans, or those supporting Trump, so the only other obvious choice for who would be back these Russians are the Democrats.
According to a recent investigation by the Russian magazine RBC, the BlackMatters group was connected to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll farm” with ties to the Kremlin.
“‘Facebook has identified the Internet Research Agency as the group responsible for purchasing 3,000 political ads on Facebook’s platform and operating 470 accounts that appear to have attempted to influence the perspectives of Americans during the 2016 elections,’ reports the Hill.”
Facebook has since deleted 470 of those accounts, including the BlackMatter’s account. Twitter has also appeared to have deleted an account associated with the group, possibly in an attempt to purge its own site of accounts linked to Russian actors.
“This is another example of why it’s important to disclose who is paying for promoted posts on Facebook,” said Katherine Haenschen, a professor who researches digital media at Virginia Tech.
The Facebook march event was a type of post called “organic content,” which is posted by users rather than an ad, but lawmakers are looking for these posts as they investigate the extent of Russian political manipulation of social media platforms.
Haenschen says that she doubts that the BlackMatters page was completely made from organic reach, since it included over 99,000 users who liked the page according to an archived version of it from May 2017.
Facebook has said that they are trying to keep content like this off its platform, but have been slow to show results.
“The foreign interference we saw is reprehensible and outrageous and opened a new battleground for our company, our industry, and our society,” says Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch in testimony he is set to deliver to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.
Top Democrats in the House and Senate Intelligence committees, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) both said that such organic posts tied to paid content will reveal the true scale of the Kremlin’s alleged social media campaign.
Other events have been found that appear to be organized by the group tended to focus on rallies around race, including the deaths of black men killed by police, and others claimed to offer legal education for immigrants.
This Kremlin-influenced group even recruited Americans who were unaware of the links to Russian actors and helped mobilize the group’s efforts for these events.
“I thought it was a knockoff of Black Lives Matter,” one organizer who unwittingly worked with the group told BuzzFeed, but changed his mind after looking at the group’s website, which he thought “looked legit.”
Facebook and other social media heads need to fix this problem before Russia is allowed even more influence over our government than it already has had, and Robert Mueller needs to realize where all of their support is coming from – the Democrats.