The US Senate has released a report detailing a social media campaign aimed at LGBT+ people in the US, including an LGBT+ helpline, encouraging them to boycott the 2016 election.
Senate and House Intelligence committees were provided with millions of social media posts on sites such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.
The Russia-linked Internet Research Agency was found to have set up a fake anti-masturbation hotline according to a new report prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee. The agency posted its hotline on the fake Christian Facebook page Army of Jesus and encouraged people to get in contact if they were “struggling with the addiction to masturbation.”
The page, which geared posts towards LGBT+ people, posted messages like “You can’t hold hands with God when you are masturbating” and “If any gay/lesbian/transgender people need anyone to talk to I’m here and I’ll listen. I’m not looking for a hookup or anything. I won’t even give out my gender or name. Times are hard and no one deserves to feel alone.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee report, titled The Tactics And Tropes Of The Internet Research Agency, also revealed that the Russian-linked agency also posted to a fake pro-LGBT+ Facebook page called LGBT United.
These details were discovered as part of a wider study of Russian intervention in US elections, and researchers found millions of social media posts related to the agency in question, including 0.4 million tweets from 3,841 accounts, 1,100 YouTube videos across 17 channels, 116,000 Instagram posts from 133 accounts, and 61,500 Facebook posts from 61 pages.
Both Army of Jesus and LGBT United presented themselves as liberal pages but manipulated members with their messages and helpline.
For example, one post published on LGBT United around the time people were calling for the impeachment of Donald Trump read, “In case anyone forgot, Mike Pence in the White House would mean disaster for queer people!! I heavily disagree with his policies regarding church and state and his LGBTQ policy. I see a lot of leftist calling for impeachment or assassination on trump but truly Trump is worlds better than Pence when talking about equal rights for all…”
According to the report, the Russian-linked agency “launched an extended attack on the US by using computational propaganda,” and over 30 million people shared content published by the agency on social media between 2015 and 2017.
It is not yet known how many people contacted the helpline and what they were greeted with when/if they did.
It is also not known who else was behind the various social media accounts, as the report states that the Internet Research Agency only “helped” with these social media campaigns.
The report adds that the general goal of these accounts was to encourage African-Americans, Latinos, liberals and members of the LGBT+ community to “boycott the election, abstain from voting for Clinton, or to spread cynicism about participating in the election in general.”
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