The 39-page grand jury indictment against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election revealed an organized attempt to suppress the Black vote.
The Russians and their organizations named in Special Counsel Robert Muller’s indictment conducted alleged “information warfare” against the United States and its citizens on behalf of then-candidate Donald J. Trump.
Beyond their alleged overarching attack on America, the indictment reveals their clever use of what some have called “Jim Crow” tactics that targeted Black voters.
The grand jury indictment opened with a clear definition of actions prohibited under U.S. law that included bans against foreign nationals from making certain expenditures or financial disbursements for the purpose of influencing federal elections, and bars any foreign entity from engaging in political activities within the United States without first registering with the Attorney General. Those named in the indictment and their co-conspirators are accused of violating these laws.
It highlights a number of activities by these Russian actors targeted at African American voters. They are charged with creating social media sites on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Included among those targeted was the Black Lives Matter movement (with group names including “Blacktivist”) designed to foster influence among Black voters.
The indictment reads in part, “By 2016, the size of many ORGANIZATION-controlled groups had grown to hundreds of thousands of online followers.”
It further explained that, by the middle of 2016, these actors and their co-conspirators were using such platforms to encourage minority groups not to vote in the 2016 presidential election or to give their votes to a third-party candidate instead.
By mid-October 2016, these actors and others used one of their organization-controlled Instagram accounts, “Woke Blacks” to post the following: “ particular hype and hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Blacks to vote Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we’d surely be better off without voting AT ALL.”
Beginning November 3, these same actors purchased advertising to raise awareness regarding another Instagram account, “Blacktivist,” that promoted: “Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein. Trust me, it’s not a wasted vote.”
Among other political advertisements paid for by Russians, targeting Black voters, were adds like, “You know, a great number of Black people support us saying that #HillaryClintonIsNotMyPresident”; and “Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote,” among others.
According to a December 2016 Washington Post report, Trumps margin of victory in three key states—Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—that Trump won by “0.2, 0.7 and 0.8 percentage points, respectively, and by 10,704, 46,765 and 22,177 votes,” gave him an electoral college victory.
In addition, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are among the states that have either enacted some of the most egregious voter suppression laws and/or been accused of misinforming their voters about voting requirements.
The rights of Black voters remain under attack in America, with Jim Crow-era tactics aimed at suppressing their votes. Such attacks range from gerrymandering to voter identification laws, in addition to the refusal by many states to reinstate voting rights to Blacks and others who have served their debts to society for felony offenses.
As a result, it is easy to see why and how Russian actors would view African Americans as ripe targets for additional voter suppression activities.
The full indictment is available online at https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/grand-jury-indicts-thirteen-russian-individuals-and-three-russian-companies-scheme-interfere.Stephanie Williams, Features WriterStephanie E. Williams is an award winning investigative reporter, editor and activist who has contributed to several Inland Empire publications. Williams spent more than thirty years as a middle-manager in the telecommunications industry before retiring to pursue her passion as a reporter and non-fiction writer. Beyond writing, Williams’ personal interests include stone-carving, drumming and sculpting.