The NAACP is calling on people to give up Facebook for a week after a recent report uncovered how Russian operatives specifically targeted Black Americans on social media in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election.
According to a recent study by New Knowledge, a Texas-based cybersecurity firm, Russian agents “made an extraordinary effort to target African-Americans” during the last 2016 race, which may have resulted in lower Black voter turnout.
“The most prolific [Internet Research Agency] efforts on Facebook and Instagram specifically targeted Black American communities and appear to have been focused on developing Black audiences and recruiting Black Americans as assets,” New Knowledge found.
While Russian operatives launched campaigns aimed at multiple groups, the report concluded “the Black community was targeted extensively with dozens” of Facebook pages and Instagram accounts aimed at genning up a distrust of Hillary Clinton.
The most popular Russian-backed Instagram account was @blackstagram, which amassed over 300,000 followers and regularly published anti-Clinton memes and content, and urged Left-leaning voters to sit out the election or support third party candidates like Jill Stein.
In total, Russian pages attracted more than 1.2 followers on Facebook alone on pages targeting Black Americans.
Because of the pervasiveness of the Russian campaign, and Facebook’s seeming inability to curtail it, the NAACP is calling on users to boycott both Facebook and Instagram for the next week for its #LogOut campaign.
NAACP has returned a monetary donation we recently received from Facebook, and we are calling on supporters to log out of Facebook and Instagram on Tuesday, December 18. We implore you, our partners, friends, and supporters to join us. #LogOutFacebook pic.twitter.com/tOBKhnbRTW
— NAACP (@NAACP) December 17, 2018
“Facebook’s engagement with partisan firms, its targeting of political opponents, the spread of misinformation and the utilization of Facebook for propaganda promoting disingenuous portrayals of the African American community is reprehensible,” Derrick Johnson, the NAACP’s President and CEO, said.
While it’s impossible to know just how much of an impact the Russians had on the election, according to the New York Times, “Black voter turnout declined in 2016 for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election.”
The NAACP is calling on Congress to further investigate the issue and has called on Facebook to be a better corporate partner to communities of color.
“It is Facebook’s corporate social responsibility to ensure that people of color are well represented in their workforce and recognize that users of color have a right to be protected propaganda and misinformation,” the organization said.