Russia has already been accused of launching fake Facebook page both before and after the U.S. presidential election. But now it appears real-life events and protests were staged, as well—including a vigil for victims of the the Pulse attack in Orlando.
Investigators have uncovered evidence the Russian government targeted both minority groups and right-wing nationalists to capitalize on divisions in American society. Operatives tricked activists into helping to organize more than 20 rallies throughout the country, some for opposing causes: One fake account organized a demonstration for victims of police violence, while another ran a “Blue Lives Matter” march.
According to The Wall Street Journal, one such event was a candlelight vigil following the Pulse nightclub attack last year, where a relative of a victim was in attendance.
Ironically, such a public display would be illegal in Russia: Days after the attack, a gay couple was arrested for leaving flowers at the U.S. embassy in Moscow.
The counterfeit pages were written in a tone matching the group they were trying to attract, including one for LGBT rights that received more than 5 million shares.The Washington Post reports “LGBT United” was “seemingly managed by a lesbian” and felt “intimate, confidential and chatty, with complaints about parents and teachers not understanding the challenges of being young and gay.”
Facebook has deleted more than 470 accounts and pages identified as coming from Russian-led content farms, which were seen by as many as 126 million Americans.
Meanwhile special Counsel Robert Mueller is continuing his investigation into links between the Russian government and members of Donald Trump’s campaign team.