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A sign encouraging Black people to vote sits in the window of a downtown storefront Sunday in Racine, Wisconsin. Experts say Russian disinformation campaigns are again targeting Blacks and Latino voters, and they may be working.
A Senate report from 2019 notes that Russian operatives working for the Internet Research Agency used social media posts with an “overwhelming operational emphasis on race… no single group of Americans was targeted… more than African Americans.”
That technique, via the use of Facebook pages, Instagram posts and Twitter missives, has again been utilized this year seeking to encourage apathy among Black voters to discourage them from voting.
A recent NPR report noted that some of these efforts included the creation of memes stating beliefs like, “Democrats and Republicans are the same. There’s no point in voting.” Another claims “Obama didn’t do anything for you during his term, why should you vote for a Democrat this time around?”
The exploitation of Black American distrust in the electoral system has been widespread in 2020. Some of the sentiments have even been echoed by President Donald Trump himself, who repeatedly says that he has “done more for Black Americans” than any president since Abraham Lincoln.
Win Black co-founder Andre Banks called the latest Russian disinformation campaign similar to a poll tax, a “sustained campaign targeted at Black Americans — and often brown Americans as well — to limit our political power, to limit our ability to shape the decisions that are made in this country.”
The Trump campaign strategy taps into long-standing beliefs by some African Americans that nothing changes for our community, no matter who is president. These campaigns, Banks said, turn conversations “toward a deep cynicism” that makes people less inspired to participate in the electoral process.
Other Russian efforts have been geared at inspiring the interest of Blacks, particularly Black men, in supporting Trump’s re-election. And, as expected, they’re not going unopposed.
Win Black is a current drive meant to fend off the widespread online disinformation that dominated web circles four years ago. In late October, LeBron James‘ More than a Vote campaign tweeted a video narrated by popular talk show hosts Desus and Mero that prompts voters to understand the disinformation dissemination actively underway.
In response to the video, one user replied with a photoshopped picture of Donald Trump and James appearing to be smiling and standing together.
Commented another user: “Case in point.”