A new report from the Washington Post details how Russian intelligence services used the state of Maryland as a kind of testing ground for social media disinformation campaigns aimed at discouraging black voters from going to the polls.
The report, which is based on both "government-commissioned reports and interviews with experts," showed how a St. Petersburg-based troll farm started creating Maryland-centric social media accounts and ads aimed at spreading false information to black voters.
Among other things, the Post cites a report from Oxford University's Computational Propaganda Research project that shows that the Russian Internet Research Agency bought more ads targeting Maryland than in any other state, and that the majority of those ads were focused on black voters in Baltimore.
"These campaigns pushed a message that the best way to advance the cause of the African American community was to boycott the election and focus on other issues instead,” the Computational Propaganda Research Project report stated.
Donald Freese, a former FBI deputy assistant director of IT operations and cyber defense who now works as an adviser at PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ cybersecurity team, tells the Post that there is no reason to expect Russia won't again try to exploit racial tensions in the United States in the coming election.
"Why shouldn’t they?" he said. "It worked well."