Russia sought to sway black voters: report

By Umar Farooq</p> <p>WASHINGTON (AA) – Russia made a sophisticated attack to target blacks in an attempt to suppress voter turnout amongst Democrats in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to a report submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee.</p> <p>The report, released Monday and conducted by cybersecurity company New Knowledge, offers insight into efforts spread by Russia to try to influence the election utilizing social media.</p> <p>The influence campaign was run by Internet Research Agency (IRA), a St. Petersburg-based company owned by an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.</p> <p>New Knowledge found the IRA worked on voter suppression tactics aimed at blacks across different media platforms, advocating black voters should stay home on election day.</p> <p>While the report did not explain the reasoning for the focus on the black community, it offered analysis of how deep efforts were to target the community.</p> <p>&quot;Other distinct ethnic and religious groups were the focus of one or two Facebook Pages or Instagram accounts, the Black community was targeted extensively with dozens,&quot; the report said.</p> <p>&quot;Most of the interest-based targeting focused on African American communities and interests,&quot; it added.</p> <p>The IRA had created profiles with names that sounded black, such as the Instagram profile @blackstagram_, and website domains, and</p> <p>The report says Moscow's leverage of Instagram yielded more engagement than posts on Facebook. The IRA created almost twice as many Instagram posts versus Facebook posts.</p> <p>The Russian company's attempt to create an authentic media ecosystem for black voters was not seen in their targeting of other communities, and aimed to further divide communities on issues that favor the government in Moscow, according to the report.</p> <p>“Very real racial tensions and feelings of alienation exist in America, and have for decades. The I.R.A. didn’t create them. It exploits them,” New Knowledge director of research Renee DiResta told The New York Times.</p> <p> &quot;Active and ongoing interference operations&quot; are still prevalent on several platforms, the report said.</p> <p>America's intelligence agencies determined in January 2017 that Russia, operating under Putin's direction, sought to sway the outcome of the 2016 White House race through a multi-faceted effort aimed at undercutting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton while propping up Republican nominee Donald Trump. Putin has denied any Russian involvement.