We can easily conclude that Russia waged information warfare on multiple fronts in Social Media.
Facebook, Twitter, now Instagram. Surely many others will follow, in varying degrees of participation.
Ads, posts, bots, pictures, and memes. Many more will follow.
This was the domain of the Russian troll farm in St. Petersburg.
I initially ran across them on LinkedIn. I also found them on multiple, multiple, multiple comments sections on LiveLeak, Huffington Post, Washington Post, and others.
If you want a good overall perspective, review this blog from December 2013 until now, you’ll see many of the ways Russia has attacked the West.
After Fast Company asked Facebook to confirm potential evidence, the company admitted that at least 5% of the Russian propaganda ads it has found appeared on Instagram.
Facebook announced last month that it had found 3,000 Russian-sponsored political ads that spread on its platform in 2015 and 2016, but it didn’t say if it had found similar posts on its Instagram network. The photo-sharing site has so far steered clear of the discussion on Russian propaganda.
But Fast Company has found at least three suspicious Instagram accounts that share a number of posts and other features with the Facebook accounts, and that racked up more than 187,000 followers before they were shut down in recent months.
When asked to confirm potential evidence of Russia-backed activity on Instagram, a Facebook spokesperson told Fast Company on Friday he was “still looking into this one so stay tuned.” Later in the afternoon, the company updated a blog post to clarify that the company had in fact also turned over some Instagram posts to investigators. “Of the more than 3,000 ads that we have shared with Congress, 5% appeared on Instagram. About $6,700 was spent on these ads.”
Some now-suspended Instagram accounts shared many attributes with the Russia-linked pages Facebook says blasted out messages to millions of users ahead of the U.S. election. On Instagram, users @secured_borders, @_blacktivistt_, and @rainbow_nation_us often included the same watermark logos, messages, and imagery that appeared on Facebook pages with similar names and themes (Secured.Borders, Blacktivists, LGBT Nation).
It’s not clear how many of the Instagram posts, collected on meme aggregation websites like me.me overlap with posts that spread on Facebook or on other platforms, but our investigation so far finds that several posts that share language and themes were published on the same day by similarly or identically named Facebook and Instagram accounts, according to metadata cached on the web.
Geared toward various slices of the electorate, the campaigns appear to be part of a broader propaganda effort that seemed designed not necessarily to support a particular candidate, investigators have said, but to divide an already fractured nation. One expert has suggested some of the innocuous-seeming pages, including one focused on dog lovers, were meant to build up a large following that could later be mobilized to spread other messages.
Many posts are outrightly political. For example, one suspicious Instagram post, distributed in recent months by the account @secured_borders and found in Google’s image cache, takes aim at Sen. John McCain while making light of his recent cancer diagnosis. The image shows the investor George Soros conversing with McCain.
“Hey Johnny, I’m paying you a fortune so listen to me closely!” the text says, in red and yellow capital letters. “I don’t care how much cancer you have, get back to DC & backstab Trump any way you can! Globalist elites need you!”