It appears that Russians have attempted to exploit racial tensions in America and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Following Castile’s death, his mother Valerie Castile, local activist Mica Grimm, and others came across an event advertisement on Facebook honoring him. However, they couldn’t figure out who was operating the campaign. Grimm and her fellow activists ultimately reached out to the organizers of the page “Don’t Shoot,” which is where the event was being publicized.
Sam Tyler messaged the page organizers directly to try getting to the bottom of things.
“Who are you involved with? Who do you have on the ground that's working on setting this up?" he said he asked.
Someone actually responded, however, they didn’t say who they were. They simply name-dropped some local organizations that they claimed were helping put their event together. But when Tyler contacted the groups named, they weren’t familiar with Don’t Shoot either.
The activists eventually learned that the people behind the campaign were actually Russians pretending to be Black Lives Matter members.
“They're basically taking advantage of what we're trying to do as a country to move forward and using it as a way to manipulate us into civil war,” Grimm said. “I'm not sure. I mean, that's kind of extreme, but they're definitely trying to use America's race relations against itself.”
The real people behind the campaign were first discovered by a 2017 CNN investigation into a fake group called “Blacktivist,” which also pretended to be a black American activist campaign and even had a larger following than the official Black Lives Matter Facebook page.
Upon finding that Russians had actually created the sham group, CNN also came upon “Don’t Shoot” and then found that Grimm and Tyler had previously shared suspicions about that group in social media posts from 2016.
The alleged motive behind infiltrating American issues beyond the 2016 presidential election was to exacerbate the political and social divides that exist within American society. Additionally, they tried to build a loyal following of passionate activists whose decisions they could influence by disseminating negative information about Hillary Clinton and trying to dissuade minorities from voting altogether.
It is sickening that these trolls would stoop so low to push their shady political agenda. Police brutality and racial inequality aren't issues to play around with. However, exposing this deceptive phenomenon will, hopefully, motivate social media users to be more vigilant about researching people, groups, events, news articles, and all information distributed across the internet before accepting it as truth.