Russian actors trying to interfere in the 2020 US election seem to be focusing on Instagram. Facebook announced Monday (Oct. 21) that it had identified several coordinated campaigns on its platforms from Iran and Russia. The Russian effort involved only one Facebook account, but 50 Instagram accounts focused primarily on the US, Facebook said.
Of course, it might just be that Facebook found the Instagram accounts, but observers have been predicting that the platform will play a big role in 2020 disinformation campaigns. A report from the Senate Intelligence committee suggests that during and after the 2016 election, Instagram was a far more powerful tool for the Internet Research Agency (IRA) than both Facebook and the media’s narrative indicated.
“Ultimately, IRA activity and engagement with Americans through Instagram accounts dramatically eclipsed the comparable interaction achieved through Facebook pages,” the report reads.
Although Facebook executives said during a conference call that the Russian operatives seem to be more sophisticated in hiding their identities, at least some of their tactics appear to be unchanged. The memes Facebook found this time around are from accounts that are meant to speak to users’ political and personal identities, like “Progressives for the Future” or “Confederate Virginia.”
One example Facebook cited was from an account called “Blessed with Melanin.” This is notable, since the Senate report emphasized that in the 2016 effort the IRA particularly targeted African-Americans on Instagram.
The latest Russian campaign reused content from around the internet and, somewhat astonishingly, recycled some of the IRA’s previous work: “A small portion of these accounts also repurposed and modified old memes originally posted by the IRA.”At this stage in the election cycle, the accounts were trying to build audiences, Facebook said.
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