- Russia’s online disinformation campaign extended well beyond 2016 and focused heavily on the NFL kneeling controversy as part of a broader effort to stoke racial tensions, according to a new Senate report.
- It’s been previously reported that Russian trolls continued efforts to divide the US after Election Day 2016, and that the NFL has been a big target, but the new report builds on the extent to which this occurred.
- The report said that the focus on the NFL kneeling controversy continued as late as March 2018, and the trolls zeroed in on Colin Kaepernick at one point.
- The Senate Intelligence Committee “found that IRA activity on social media did not cease, but rather increased after Election Day 2016.”
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Russia’s 2016 disinformation campaign sought to leverage the NFL national anthem kneeling controversy as part of a broader effort to divide the US and inflame racial divisions, according to the second volume of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Russian election interference, which was released on Tuesday.
The report said that the focus on the NFL kneeling controversy went well beyond 2016 and continued as late as March 2018.
It’s been previously reported that Russian trolls continued efforts to divide the US after Election Day 2016, and that the NFL has been a big target, but the second volume of the Senate Intelligence Committee report builds on the extent to which race and the national anthem kneeling debate were part of the disinformation campaign.
“The Committee found that no single group of Americans was targeted by IRA information operatives more than African-Americans,” the report said. “By far, race and related issues were the preferred target of the information warfare campaign designed to divide the country in 2016.”
The Internet Research Agency, the notorious Russian troll farm at the centre of these efforts, “heavily focused on hotbutton issues with racial undertones, such as the NFL kneeling protests.”
This included references to Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who garnered national attention for kneeling during the national anthem and was ostracised by the league as a result.
“A Left Troll account, @wokeluisa, tweeted in support of Colin Kaepernick and tje NFL protests on March 13, 2018, prompting 37,000 forwarded retweets,” the report said. “Simultaneous to this, and in .the direction of the ideologically opposite audience, @BarbaraForTrump, a Right Troll account, was tweeting content hostile to the protests.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee “found that IRA activity on social media did not cease, but rather increased after Election Day 2016.”
Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election has been among the most divisive topics in Washington since the last presidential election. An assessment from US intelligence agencies found that Russia interfered in the election under the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin with the intention of boosting Donald Trump’s chances of winning by maligning former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Despite the intelligence community’s findings and continued warnings about the Kremlin’s ongoing efforts to intervene in the US electoral process, Trump has expressed scepticism that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and downplayed the issue at times.
Former special counsel Robert Mueller, who conducted an extensive investigation on Russia’s efforts and issued a 448-page report on this, concluded that Russia sought to help Trump and that there “were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election.”
Mueller did not, however, find sufficient evident that the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Though the former special counsel declined to reach a conclusion on whether Trump committed obstruction of justice in the process of the inquiry, he also did not exonerate the president on the matter and outlined 11 possible instances of obstruction.
The Mueller probe catalyzed further inquires by House Democrats in Congress and continues to be mentioned in discussions on the escalating Ukraine scandal that’s sparked an impeachment inquiry into Trump.
The Senate report released Tuesday urged the Trump administration to “reinforce with the public the danger” posed from “foreign interference” ahead of the 2020 election. The report was released less than a week after Trump stood on the White House lawn and called for Ukraine and China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a top contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
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