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Russian trolls used Colin Kaepernick, NFL anthem debate to divide US

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Russia’s 2016 disinformation campaign sought to leverage the NFL national anthem kneeling controversy as part of a broader effort to divide the US and inflame racial divisions, according to the second volume of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Russian election interference, which was released on Tuesday.

The report said that the focus on the NFL kneeling controversy went well beyond 2016 and continued as late as March 2018.

It’s been previously reported that Russian trolls continued efforts to divide the US after Election Day 2016, and that the NFL has been a big target, but the second volume of the Senate Intelligence Committee report builds on the extent to which race and the national anthem kneeling debate were part of the disinformation campaign. 

“The Committee found that no single group of Americans was targeted by IRA information operatives more than African-Americans,” the report said. “By far, race and related issues were the preferred target of the information warfare campaign designed to divide the country in 2016.”

The Internet Research Agency, the notorious Russian troll farm at the center of these efforts, “heavily focused on hotbutton issues with racial undertones, such as the NFL kneeling protests.”

This included references to Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who garnered national attention for kneeling during the national anthem and was ostracized by the league as a result. 

“A Left Troll account, @wokeluisa, tweeted in support of Colin Kaepernick and tje NFL protests on March 13, 2018, prompting 37,000 forwarded retweets,” the report said. “Simultaneous to this, and in .the direction of the ideologically opposite audience, @BarbaraForTrump, a Right Troll account, was tweeting content hostile to the protests.”

This article will continue to be updated. 

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