Perhaps the most striking takeaway from a pair of new reports released by the Senate Intelligence Committee is the consistency and persistence with which Russian trolls sought to depress the black vote in the 2016 election.
That workers for the Internet Research Agency—a “troll farm” with close ties to the Kremlin—targeted African Americans has been clear for more than a year, emerging in a series of reports in fall 2017, and then receiving new attention in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s February 2018 indictment of the IRA and several associated individuals.
But the two reports, commissioned from Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and New Knowledge, provide an overwhelming amount of detail and information. There’s a remarkable amount of crossover between the Russians’ tactics and what the Donald Trump campaign said it was doing late in the 2016 race.
According to the Oxford team, African Americans were the single group targeted most heavily by the IRA—and it wasn’t even a close margin.
“Messaging to African Americans sought to divert their political energy away from established political institutions by preying on anger with structural inequalities faced by African Americans,” the report states. “These campaigns pushed a message that the best way to advance the cause of the African American community was to boycott the election and focus on other issues instead.”