A sprawling Russian disinformation campaign aimed at influencing the 2016 elections found success with social media accounts promoting the idea of Texas secession, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Senate that was released Monday.
When it came to stirring up social divisions and exerting political influence, two accounts about the Lone Star State proved especially effective: a “Heart of Texas” Facebook page and a @rebeltexas account on Instagram.
Both accounts were created and managed by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company that’s been characterized by the U.S. government as a “troll farm” and was indicted by a federal grand jury.
Heart of Texas, which amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook, promoted an image of the state as a land of barbecue and guns while sharing posts that attacked immigration.
The page had the most shares of all IRA Facebook accounts, at 4.8 million, according to the report, which was prepared by an Austin-based company, New Knowledge.
“Heart of Texas visual clusters included a wide swath of shapes of Texas, landscape photos of flowers, and memes about secession and refugees,” the report said.
Posts by the Facebook page cited in the report include a truck with a giant state flag and a photo of Texas wildflowers as well as another laying out the “economic grounds for Texas secession.” The page also shared memes criticizing immigration.
You can read that report here. The extent of this activity is mind-boggling, and in just about any other context we’d call it highly aggressive, if not warlike. Every now and then I see one of these yahoos with a “Secede” sticker on their car, and I wonder if they have any idea. We’re doing this to ourselves, that’s the really scary part.