They publicized or financed at least 60 events—on all sides of most polarizing issues—before and after the 2016 election
.. In July 2016, as outrage swelled over fatal shootings in Dallas and Minneapolis, alleged social-media agitators tied to Russia worked quickly to capitalize on the emotionally charged atmosphere.
Workers linked to a Russia-based firm organized two gatherings, both for July 10: In Dallas, a “Blue Lives Matter” rally honored the five police officers slain there on July 7; and near Minneapolis, nearly 300 people rallied in support of Philando Castile, a man fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop.
The events show that the Russian-linked account activity went far beyond paying for polarizing ads dropped into Facebook members’ news feeds. At least 60 rallies, protests and marches were publicized or financed by eight Russia-backed Facebook accounts from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., according to a review by The Wall Street Journal
.. it had found 470 such accounts that it says belonged to Russians and that sought to exploit social divisions in the U.S. through provocative issue ads.
.. but the live events demonstrate how the alleged use of social media by Russian forces served as a launchpad for deeper infiltration into the American democratic process. Many rallies were sparsely attended, but some attracted news coverage, helping the accounts seem legitimate
.. People representing “Black Matters US,” one of the Russia-backed accounts, pressured Los Angeles activist Nolan Hack to plan events that would raise the account’s visibility.
.. Collectively, the eight accounts analyzed by the Journal were “liked” nearly two million times
.. Russian entities likely promoted events because the Kremlin believes protests destabilize democracies, according to Ms. Oates, who studies Russian propaganda. Event listings show how Russia-backed pages organized protests for and against the same issues. The page “Born Patriotic” planned 17 pro-Trump rallies on the same day in August 2016 while “Black Matters” hosted anti-Trump rallies after the election.