From the very inception of Donald Trump's presidency, talks of Russian meddling in the 2016 election have hovered over the White House.
Nine months later, there is still no concrete evidence that the Trump administration colluded with the foreign power, but in September, Facebook admitted that more than 3,000 ads were bought by accounts linked to the Russian government. The media company also found that Russia’s Internet Research Agency, which has ties to the Kremlin, spent at least $100,000 on advertising with the social media giant. It’s suspected that the ads were aimed at exploiting the growing racial tensions in America.
On Thursday, Black lawmakers had the opportunity to take Facebook to task for their part in an election that still remains a constant source of frustration for much of the Black community. What they received in return from the social media site was what some called empty promises.
According to the New York Times, Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s Chief Operating Officer, pledged for over an hour to “do better” as it relates to how the media giant allows the dissemination of fake news and bought ads that spread false claims.
In the last several months, it’s been made aware that Russia not only stoked fears among American citizens through ads exploiting racial tensions, they also paid Black activists — unbeknownst to them — to further their Kremlin agenda. Many were compensated for holding Black Lives Matter rallies, teaching self defense classes and writing content for Russian websites disguised as pro-Black web resources. So while advocates were fighting to be heard on the subjects of racial profiling, police brutality, and other racially-charged injustices in America, Russia was using Facebook to turn White voters against everything they stood for.
It’s a tactic that likely cost the Democrats the White House and put a man who many believe have ties to White supremacist groups in the Oval Office. In addition to those well reported bits of news, the Kremlin-backed scheme has prompted believers of their fake news reporting to act, in many cases violently, against other races and religious groups.
Representative Cedric L. Richmond, Democrat of Louisiana and the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus told the Times that he is concerned that even the FBI has bought into the propaganda being peddled by Russia, which will consequently hurt the Black community and possibly make those who protest policing practices a target for the federal law enforcement agency.
To that end Richmond commented, “This is a very fragile moment in time for African-Americans across this country. What we needed Facebook to understand is that they play a role in the perception of African-Americans.”
The CBC hopes that they made that point loud and clear. It’s now on Facebook to make right on their promises to “do better.”