Russian government linked to fake black activist accounts

Facebook and Twitter accounts attempted to stoke racial tensions and promote divisiveness in the US, CNN reports.

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The banner image for the Blacktivist page on Facebook.


Social media accounts linked to the Russian government attempted to intensify racial tensions during the US elections in 2016, CNN reported late Thursday.

The accounts, which used the moniker "Blacktivist," regularly shared content intended to fuel the outrage of their audiences, including videos of police violence against African Americans.

"Black people should wake up as soon as possible," read one post on the Twitter account. "Black families are divided and destroyed by mass incarceration and death of black men," another read. Both accounts have been suspended, but the messages still appear in search results.

The revelation buttresses allegations that Russia-linked social media accounts sought to encourage divisiveness in the US during and after last year's election, in which race relations were frequently at the fore. Over the past weekend, a network of Twitter accounts suspected of links to Russia were used to stoke the controversy over whether NFL players should stand for pregame performances of the national anthem.

The news also emerges on the same day Twitter told the House and Senate Intelligence Committees during closed-door meetings it had discovered 201 accounts that appear to be tied to the same Russian accounts that purchased ads on Facebook that may have influenced the 2016 presidential election. After checking the roughly 450 profiles Facebook shared in its review, Twitter said, it found 22 corresponding Twitter accounts.

The Blacktivist account on Facebook attracted more than 360,000 likes, outpacing the 301,000 likes on the official Black Lives Matter account. The page was used to publicize race-themed rallies across the US, including a march in Baltimore commemorating the death of Freddie Gray, a man who died while in Baltimore Police custody in 2015.

"We are fed up with police violence, racism, intolerance and injustice that passed down from generation to generation. We are fed up with government ignorance and the system failing black people," the page's description of the march for Freddie Gray read.

This isn't the first time Russian operatives have been linked to activities aimed at promoting division in the US. They also reportedly used Facebook Events to remotely organize political protests in the US, including a 2016 anti-immigration rally in Idaho. The social media giant told The Daily Beast earlier this month it had "shut down several promoted events" as part a takedown operation aimed at cleaning up the platform's event management and invitation tool.

Twitter declined to comment on the specific allegation, instead referring questions to a blog post earlier Thursday about its efforts to stamp out networks of manipulation on its platform.

Facebook didn't respond to a request for comment.

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