October 08, 2019

After Senate Intelligence Committee Releases Second Volume of Bipartisan Russia Report, Harris Warns of Further Efforts to Suppress Black Voters

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Tuesday released a statement after the Senate Intelligence Committee released the second volume of its report on Russian interference in the 2016 election:

“Today’s bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence Committee makes clear that Russia deployed information warfare to sway the 2016 elections and exploited American social media networks to do it—and that their disinformation campaign ramped up after Election Day 2016. Russian operatives set out to divide the American people by taking advantage of existing divisions in American society, particularly on the issue of race, to stoke fear and influence voter turnout. The Russian influence operation delivered disinformation and inflammatory content, on a massive scale, aimed at deepening fissures among the American people and weakening our national security.

“Russia engaged in tactics designed to suppress the votes of Black Americans in particular. Russian operatives fraudulently posed as Black Americans to actively discourage the Black community from voting. Social media companies must step up their efforts to fight disinformation and remove inflammatory content on their platforms, including by ensuring their workforces are diverse enough to identify and understand the cultural nuances that foreign actors exploit to divide and harm Americans.

“And let’s be honest: it’s time for the President of the United States to stop playing into our adversaries’ hands. With every dishonest and inflammatory tweet, the president advances the interests of our adversaries by dividing the American people. This bipartisan report should cause social media companies to seriously question the role they play in advancing the president’s dangerous rhetoric.

“Defending the integrity of our elections must not be a partisan issue. Hostile foreign powers will seek to promote candidates who they perceive to promote their interests, regardless of party. This is an ongoing threat against our national security and our democracy. Our work to secure our elections for 2020 and beyond will only be successful if we understand that our diversity is our strength and that our power ultimately comes from our unity.”

Among the Senate Intelligence Committee’s findings in the second volume of its report were:

  • “Russia’s targeting of the 2016 U.S. presidential election was part of a broader, sophisticated, and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society.” (pg. 5)

  • “IRA activity on social media did not cease, but rather increased after Election Day 2016.” (pg. 8)

  • “Three types of voter suppression campaigns on Facebook and Instagram emerge, including: ‘a) turnout suppression/election boycott; b) third-candidate promotion; and c) candidate attack, all targeting nonwhites or likely Clinton voters.” (pg. 35)

  • “[N]o single group of Americans was targeted by IRA information operatives more than African-Americans. By far, race and related issues were the preferred target of the information warfare campaign designed to divide the country in 2016.” (pg. 38)

    • “Evidence of the IRA’s overwhelming operational emphasis on race is evident in the IRA’s Facebook advertisement content (over 66 percent contained a term related to race) and targeting (locational targeting was principally aimed at ‘African-Americans in key metropolitan areas with well-established black communities and flashpoints in the Black Lives Matter movement’).” (pg. 38)

    • “The groups that they made to reach out to Black people were specifically targeted with ‘Don’t Vote for Hillary Clinton,’ ‘Don’t Vote At All,’ ‘Why Would We Be Voting,’ ‘Our Votes Don’t Matter,’ [and] ‘A Vote for Jill Stein is Not a Wasted Vote.’” (pg. 35)

  • “At the direction of the Kremlin…IRA social media activity was overtly and almost invariably supportive of then-candidate Trump, and to the detriment of Secretary Clinton’s campaign.” (pg. 4)

    • “The IRA targeted not only Hillary Clinton, but also Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. For example, Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were targeted and denigrated, as was Jeb Bush.” (pg. 6)

  • “An estimated 3.3 million Facebook users followed IRA-backed pages, and these pages are the predicate for 76.5 million user interactions, or ‘engagements.’” (pg. 45)

  • “[T]he IRA used 133 Instagram accounts to publish over 116,000 posts…IRA accounts accumulated 3.3 million followers and generated 187 million engagements.” (pg. 48)

  • Twitter accounts tied to the IRA “generated nearly 8.5 million tweets, resulting in 72 million engagements on the basis of that original content….Twitter estimates that in total, 1.4 million users engaged with tweets originating with the IRA.” (pg. 50)

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