one for the 'gram
December 18, 2018

From targeting black voters to encouraging Texan secession, Russians crafted memes on social media to push the 2016 election in President Trump's favor, a Senate report released Monday shows. But at first glance, it's not completely clear how some posts relate to the 2016 race.

In one of two reports shared Monday, cybersecurity firm New Knowledge documents how a Russian troll farm called the Internet Research Agency "leveraged social media to wage a propaganda war" during and beyond the election cycle. Posts got the most engagement on Instagram — like this June 11, 2017 post, which was IRA's most successful on the platform with 254,179 likes and 6,734 comments.

This kind of post wasn't explicitly about politics, but instead aimed to build an audience and viewers' trust, the report notes. The same was true of IRA's most-liked Instagram before the election, which it posted twice on the account @army_of_jesus_ in March and June of 2016.

Top-performing memes like this one were often reposted or recycled across different pages, seeing as IRA ran 133 Instagram accounts, 16 websites, and dozens of Facebook pages, the report says. Across all those accounts, just 18 percent of Instagram posts and seven percent of Facebook posts mentioned candidates Trump or Hillary Clinton by name.

You can read the whole disinformation report here, or get a quicker rundown here. Kathryn Krawczyk

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