The Russian troll farm that disrupted the 2016 U.S. presidential election sought particularly to demoralize African-Americans and deter them from voting, according to a comprehensive new report for the Senate.
Both the these reports were commissioned by the senate intelligence committee. The committee collected data from social media companies that was used by the private analysts in their analysis. The New Knowledge report says there were a number of posts expressing support for Assange and Wikileaks, including several in October 2016 just before WikiLeaks released hacked emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign.
In particular, the report identifies 81 Facebook pages created by the IRA, 30 of which targeted black Americans and amassed 1.2 million followers.
The matter is being investigated by Special Counsel Mueller, whose long-running inquiry has clouded the Trump presidency and netted guilty pleas and indictments against former close Trump associates.
"What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party-and specifically Donald Trump". It was already known that Russian disinformation flowed freely on Facebook, but the New Knowledge report notes that Instagram, a social media app where people share and comment on photos, was even more useful to the Russians.
The goal, it says, appears to have been "developing black audiences and recruiting black Americans as assets".
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, rejected the claims, saying the reports sought to shift blame for social tensions in the U.S.to Russia without offering proof.
The new research also points to the previously underappreciated prominence of the IRA's use of Instagram.
Another IRA account, "Black Matters", posted on Facebook: "Cops kill black kids".
"It was very gratifying for me to read about these reports, because they simply reinforce or buttress what we said in our intelligence community assessment in January of 2017", he added. The report was submitted to the Senate by the Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford University and social media specialists Graphika.
The report stated the existence of live accounts tied to IRA, some of which have moved their online presence to smaller platforms, as the big social media companies have cracked down on Russian trolling activity.
The reports show how, two years later, US lawmakers are still learning from Russia's 2016 intervention and trying to craft policy that would shore up USA defenses against disinformation. And it notes that spikes in the IRA's advertising and organic activity match up with important dates in USA politics, crises and worldwide events.
A key component of the Russian operation was the targeting of minority voters.