Russian government-connected Internet Research Agency utilizes fake social media accounts to mobilize rallies across the United States
In the months leading up to the 2016 election, the Russian government-connected Internet Research Agency (IRA) used inauthentic social media personas to orchestrate rallies, demonstrations, and protests on politically divisive issues in New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas, and across Florida. The trolls employed fake email accounts, Facebook ads, Facebook events, and inauthentic Instagram accounts to promote the events. According to The New York Times, the efforts included organizing the rallies, coordinating with grassroots efforts, soliciting promotion from activists, requesting rally signs directly from campaigns, and monetarily supporting protests. The rallies spanned the political spectrum and focused on divisive issues, such as race and immigration. In some cases, the IRA organized both protests and corresponding counter protests with the goal of stoking anger and confrontation. Beyond organizing the rallies, IRA social media accounts also contributed by funding advertising, flyers, and rally supplies. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the IRA is “a Russian organization engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes.” Evgeniy Prigozhin, “a Russian oligarch who is closely identified with Russian President Vladimir Putin,” provides funding and support for the IRA.
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