We’re continuing to learn more about how and why Russian Internet trolls infiltrated American social media networks before, during, and after the 2016 presidential election. One prime example shows just how elaborate Moscow’s efforts to sway American opinion have become. It involves a social media campaign targeted toward Texans, and some say it was quite successful.
New York-based journalist Casey Michel is a Rice University graduate and veteran of the Houston Press. He recently wrote a story for the Washington Post about how Russians pretended to be Texans online.
In late 2015, MIchel was researching Twitter pages and Facebook groups. “I stumbled across something called The Heart of Texas,” Michel says. “There was no contact information, no clear ties to Texas. The English was so garbled, so mangled.”
Michel thought the group may not have been what it appeared to be. “Then as we learned a couple weeks ago – confirmation that this was indeed a group run out of Russia,” he says.
Michel says the group pushed Texas pride. It also pushed the idea that Texas is a Christian state – a place where liberals and vegetarians don’t belong and where everyone needs to have a gun.
How many Texans fell for it? Michel says they’re still figuring out the numbers.
“By August 2017, it had about a quarter of a million followers,” he says. “It actually had more followers than the official Texas Democrat and Texas Republican pages on Facebook combined.”
Written by Dani Matias.