The Atlantic

The History of Russian Involvement in America's Race Wars

From propaganda posters to Facebook ads, 80-plus years of Russian meddling.
Source: Gerard Fouet / Getty

According to a spate of recent reports, accounts tied to the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency—a Russian “troll factory”— used social media and Google during the 2016 electoral campaign to deepen political and racial tensions in the United States. The trolls, according to an interview with the Russian TV network TV Rain, were directed to focus their tweets and comments on socially divisive issues, like guns. But another consistent theme has been Russian trolls focusing on issues of race. Some of the Russian ads placed on Facebook apparently targeted Ferguson and Baltimore, which were rocked by protests after police killings of unarmed black men; another showed a black woman firing a rifle. Other ads played on fears of illegal immigrants and Muslims, and groups like Black Lives Matter.

Except for the technology used, however, these tactics are not exactly new. They are natural outgrowths of a central component of covert influence campaigns, like the one Russia launched against the United States during the

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic3 min readSociety
Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Testimony on Reparations
“The question really is not whether we’ll be tied to the somethings of our past, but whether we are courageous enough to be tied to the whole of them.”
The Atlantic4 min readPsychology
Legal Abortion Isn’t the Problem to Be Solved
The real problem is that families are primed to see a fetal anomaly as a catastrophe in waiting.
The Atlantic7 min readSociety
Everyone Wants to Talk About Reparations. But for How Long?
The issue makes the occasional blip in the national conversation. Yet in communities that have been fighting inequality for generations, it is more like the steady thumping of a drum.