A Russia-backed Facebook page titled “Blacktivist” tried to exacerbate racial tensions during the 2016 presidential election, CNN reported Friday.
Users could purchase branded items from “Blacktivist,” and in total, 87 items were sold. These included T-shirts and sweatshirts with messages such as “Young, gifted and black” and “Our sons matter.”
Observers believe the merchandise was part of a broader Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election, and that this specific page was designed to aggravate racial tensions.
The page sold the items through a sales platform called “Represent.” The branding of the items was consistent with that of “Blacktivist” Facebook and Twitter accounts, though there isn’t a definitive way to prove a connection.
After being contacted by CNN about the nefarious account, Represent shut down the store. The page is one of hundreds turned over to Congress for investigation.
The founder of a company that monitors online propaganda told CNN the move to affect the election is a typical one by the Russians, saying that they were actively attempting to “pit Americans against each other” and play on already-widening partisan divides.
Both Twitter and Facebook are set to testify before congressional intelligence committees on Nov. 1 to explain their role in Russia’s use of social media to influence the election and sow discord among Americans.
The testimonies come after Twitter found over 200 accounts potentially linked to Russian operatives and Facebook found over 3,000 advertisements sold to Russian linked groups.
Earlier today, Facebook confirmed the existence of an anti-Islam page from Texas believed to be run by Russians, as well.
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Facebook claims Texas anti-Islam page backed by Russians