WASHINGTON — The Senate Intelligence Committee has released a bipartisan report on Russia’s use of social media during the 2016 presidential election.
The wide-ranging report details how the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency used various platforms in a broad, sophisticated information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society.
“The facts that they’ve uncovered are incredibly damning and require action,” said Max Bergmann, senior fellow with the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Bergmann says the report highlights the urgent need to protect the nation from election interference.
One of the notable findings was that the group targeted African-Americans more than any other demographic through posts, Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, and more to create division on issues relating to race.
“Politically, what they were trying to do is both give voice to extremists on the racist right but they were also trying to suppress the Democratic vote, the African-American vote,” Bergmann explained.
“At one point, there was a study that showed perhaps nearly five million tweets came from an automated source,” he added.
Despite these efforts, some say African Americans shouldn’t focus on being the victim of this attack but instead recognize their strength.
“What it suggests is that because we were targeted, we have such a power base to influence a national election in the most powerful country in the world,” Dr. Ravi Perry said.
Perry, the chair of the Department of Political Science at Howard University, says the targeted advertisements and social media posts were often effective.
“‘Not voting is not a wasted vote,’ or saying that, ‘don’t vote at all because your votes don’t count,’ these are the kinds of things that many African Americans were duped by,” he explained.
Perry says voters need to spend more time evaluating the messages they see on social media to combat foreign interference in the future.