Russians impersonated real US Muslim group to buy targeted Facebook ads and share inflammatory memes
A Facebook group for “United Muslims of America”—a real California-based nonprofit organization that’s not currently “functional,” according to its most recent president—was a fake account tied to the Russian government, the Daily Beast reports.
According to the Beast, the account was used as “a front” to connect with Muslim Americans and their supporters, and peddled fake, inflammatory memes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, including allegations that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “created ISIS” and and “American tax dollars (are) funding Terrorists and trying to destabilize Syria.” The group also used Facebook ads to target individual voters.
According to the Beast, Facebook deactivated the group last month.
“Russia knows no ends and no limits to which groups they would masquerade as to carry out their objectives,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who sits on the House intelligence committee, told the Beast.
Swalwell, who’s attended events hosted by the real United Muslims of America in the past, said these posts are not emblematic of the group he knows.
“The group who I spoke to and continue to engage with, they seek harmony between the U.S. and the Muslim world,” Swalwell said. “Many of these individuals I have heard first-hand denounce terrorist attacks across the world, including those carried out by Muslim. To see their name hijacked by the Russians, if true, and carrying out Russian goals of undermining the U.S. is disturbing and not who they are.”
This report comes as Congress ramps up scrutiny of the social media site, which intelligence officials believe was used by Facebook in order to influence the 2016 presidential election. Facebook received an invitation to speak before the Senate intelligence committee on Nov. 1. Twitter and Google have also been asked to testify.