New evidence reveals Russia targeted LGBTQ Americans on Facebook

Every day it seems we learn more and more about the tactics used by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and today comes the startling news that at least one initiative targeted LGBTQ Americans directly.

It’s well-known by now that Russian operatives used Facebook in every way they could to shape American public opinion, from buying massive amounts of ads to creating an elaborate network of fake users.

And now it’s been reported they also formed several hundred “Group” pages, because hey, why wouldn’t they?

One of those propaganda pages, according to the Washington Post, was “LGBT United,” which claimed to speak “for all fellow members of LGBT community across the nation”.

While the page rarely posted about the election, analysts believe it was instead meant to build a base of LGBTQ American influence, and potentially drown out election coverage from actual LGBTQ media.

Jonathan Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, found that posts on the page received more than 5 million shares.

Related: The “Putin Shirtless Challenge” is inspiring Russian hunks to show their stuff on Instagram

The page’s author(s), posing as a lesbian, would share pro-gay memes and posts, although there were also instances of mainstream Republicans, like Ted Cruz, getting criticized.

“The tone of the posts [from the different pages] varies strikingly… the one seemingly managed by a lesbian is intimate, confidential and chatty, with complaints about parents and teachers not understanding the challenges of being young and gay,” Albright said.

“The English is nearly flawless. One popular post said simply, ‘Bi and proud!’ with a thumbs-up emoji attached to the end.”

He added: “The goal seemed less to inspire enthusiasm for one candidate than to dampen support for voting at all.”

Related: How Trump’s love for Putin is allowing the Russian right to export anti-LGBTQ hatred

Every one of those posts, it should be noted, would be illegal in Russia under the nation’s so-called gay propaganda laws.

Facebook has announced that all the pages they’ve linked back to Russia have been shuttered.

Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s Vice President of Policy and Communications, discussed the latest development in a blog post.

He said: “Approximately 470 accounts and Pages we shut down recently were identified by our dedicated security team that manually investigates specific, organized threats. They found that this set of accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another — and were likely operated out of Russia.

“When we’re looking for this type of abuse, we cast a wide net in trying to identify any activity that looks suspicious. But it’s a game of cat and mouse.

“Bad actors are always working to use more sophisticated methods to obfuscate their origins and cover their tracks.

Related: What It’s Like To Be Young And Gay In Russia

“That in turn leads us to devise new methods and smarter tactics to catch them — things like machine learning, data science and highly trained human investigators. And, of course, our internal inquiry continues.

“It’s possible that government investigators have information that could help us, and we welcome any information the authorities are willing to share to help with our own investigations.

“Using ads and other messaging to affect political discourse has become a common part of the cybersecurity arsenal for organized, advanced actors.

“This means all online platforms will need to address this issue, and get smarter about how to address it, now and in the future.”

According to the Washington Post, other Russian pages included ‘Blacktivists’, ‘United Muslims of America’, ‘Being Patriotic’, ‘Heart of Texas’ and ‘Secured Borders’.

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  • DCguy

    Well that would explain why Mo Bro seems to have no problem coming up with an endless supply of new screenames.

  • Mack

    I read a couple of years ago that the reason that Russians were so anti gay was because the birthrate had dropped and they needed the males to produce more offsprings. Personally I think if they quit drinking so much they would be able to get it up more often to have the babies.

    • DCguy

      No, they are anti-gay because their government is using LGBTs as a scapegoat to take attention away from how terrible things are in the country. Russia has done the same thing with Jews in the past, this is nothing new and there is a long history of it in Russia.

      It’s no different than what FOX News or the GOP does.

    • He BGB

      In general places like Russia and especially patriarchal religions, use the “no new Catholics, get them while they’re young”, power in numbers routine, also contraception and abortion fit that too, but homophobia is just that, an unfounded, unrealistic fear of homos, ignorance and fear.

  • Danny595

    It is impossible to target “LGBTQ people” because there is no such thing as “LGBTQ people.” Most likely, Russia targeted LGB people.

    • Juanjo

      Speaking of Russian propaganda, here’s Danny!

    • Gaytaffuk

      Juanjo – it can’t be the Danielle we all know and love, he’s not getting his panties in a bunch and screeching about how effeminate someone is and how butch and masculine he is!!!!

      Maybe he’s on holiday in Sochi and a stand-in is managing his account in the meantime!

  • blackout_boycott

    Russia hacked way before that. Around when the Sochi Olympics started, they hacked computer’s as soon as they entered the hotel room.
    They also setup vigilante groups to do harm to LGBT, and taking a bath to their head’s or cutting the area if the ground, leaving them for dead.
    They also targeted shower’s of hotel rooms with camera’s spying on any activity if LGBT for violation of their law’s again LGBT.
    Some of this was on YouTube to show what they would do to you if you were LGBT in Russia.
    Dateline NBC did a story on hacking of computer’s as soon as you entered the room.

    • Ronbo

      Such McCarthyism is much more dangerous than an on-line ad buy. Not so long ago the Clinton-signed DADT and DOMA were ruled “unconstitutional” denial of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

      Do you really want for-profit corporations in charge of the “truth”?

  • flipdiving

    love making their distance closer together. I heart mowrng tissue n?n with them.
    colour switch

  • Ronbo

    Please show us the Russian ads. Fair enough? “It’s well known” that we have a Constitution allowing freedom of speech. Perhaps you oppose that Comrade Tracer. The first amendment is more important than a minuscule undocumented ad buy.

    Let’s NOT join the 1950’s in McCarthyism! The problem is that we have freedom of speech, Queerty. Maybe It’s well-known by now” but until we amend the Constitution, we can speak up in America. Hate our freedoms?

    Is anyone willing to be silenced so that the two most hated politicians, Hillary and Donnie, can bring more failed Reaganomics to further enrich the extremely rich? McCarthyism is the same old tool that the establishment used in the past to keep us down. The rich will only get richer as we watch pre-approved materials from FB and Queerty and Google.

    Remember when the establishment silenced all positive LBGT thought? McCarthyism will work to silence you again… when you oppose free speech.

    Rumor and fear do not replace facts, even if they come from your chosen party. The only scandal backed by actual fact is the cover-up when the neoliberals / DLC / DNC fixed the primary (Wikileaks) for the most disliked Democrat in the history of the party.

    How did that work out, comrade Tracer?

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