Russian trolls targeted LGBTQ in 2016 polls
As the investigation into the 2016 presidential election keeps unrolling, we keep getting a lot of revelations, the latest being that Russian trolls had targeted the LGBTQ community as well.
This was the findings of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, that a Russian social media operation to help win Trump included efforts to polarize voters on LGBTQ issues.
The Russian operation also involved getting at lonely LGBT teenagers through a fake hotline.
Russian trolls for Trump
In some cases, the trolls helped LGBTQ voters to support Bernie Sanders to divide the Democratic Party against then-Republican candidate Trump.
In one of the two reports made public last December 17 by the Senate committee, it said: “It is evident that the campaigns sought to demobilize African-Americans, LGBT and liberal voters.”
“This was attempted through organic posts that attacked [Democratic presidential nominee] Hillary Clinton. Content referred to President [Bill] Clinton’s … signing into law of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as an attack on the gay community, and in another, argued that Hillary supports Muslims, who the post insinuates are anti-gay,” the report stated.
These “organic posts” were distributed through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter without having to use paid services to boost its spread.
The report further noted that: “While there was a limited amount of discussion that sought to drive some of these voters towards Bernie Sanders or third parties, patterns of trying to reduce trust in the political system were more apparent.”
How the Russian trolls did it
The report noted the attempts by operatives of Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) to target the LGBTQ community through one of their Facebook pages, “LGBT United,” which had almost two million likes.
The posts of “LGBT United” were shared almost one million times, had almost 400,000 “reactions,” and had 87,500 comments.
What’s more, IRA spent about US$5,500 on at least 70 ads that targeted the LGBTQ community through websites and mobile apps.
More than 80,000 people who saw the ads went on to click through to reach the Facebook page managed by IRA.
During Pride month in June 2015, the IRA conducted campaigns targeting the LGBTQ community that were abundant and successful.
The report noted that the IRA messages were targeted against groups that were seen as “anti-gay,” like certain religious groups and right-wing conservatives.
Russian trolls targeting LGBTQ youth
Meanwhile, the report said the IRA had also set up “support” hotlines for LGBTQ youth and for Christian masturbation addicts.
Supposedly these may have been set up to collect information that could be used against them later.
What’s more, the IRA even went to efforts like selling “LGBT-positive sex toys,” setting up a voter fraud hotline number, and targeting those playing Pokémon Go.
The report noted that Pokémon Go was incorporated into the operation to exploit racial tensions in American society, i.e. players should name their Pokémon with a police brutality victim’s name.
More importantly, these Russian trolls kept on with their efforts even after the votes were counted.
“IRA posts on Instagram and Facebook increased substantially after the election, with Instagram seeing the greatest increase in IRA activity,” the report noted.