“Blacktivist,” “Heart of Texas,” “Tennessee GOP.” Do any of these social media accounts seem familiar? Through sharing, retweeting or even following them, there’s a good chance you may have been exposed to posts from these accounts.
However, according to a federal indictment, these are just a few of many that were run by Russians with the sole intention of riling up Americans on both sides of the political spectrum.
On Friday, it was revealed some of these accounts were created to divide the country and ignite information warfare. It seems no one was immune.
Faith Geist is a grandmother, a bird watcher, a faithful tai-chi student, and “I’m a long-time Republican. Been one for a long time. My grandfather was. I inherited it.”
She says it hasn’t always been easy in Connecticut.
“I had all of my Republican stickers ripped off my car, except for the one they couldn’t rip off so they keyed it,” Geist said.
Because of past experiences like those, she won’t get involved in political discussions in person. She chooses to mix it up online with her Kindle delivering the messages.
The 2016 presidential campaign was one of the most bitter in recent history and social media not only gave us a front row seat to it all, it offered the chance for anyone to jump in the fray.
Geist admits, sometimes people felt she crossed the line.
“Not seriously hateful, but some things people took that way, yes,” Geist said.
But the political passion she and others expressed may have been inflamed or reinforced by one of several social media accounts that recently were exposed as phony groups from Russia.
“I don’t think they cared who won. I think too many people in our country went right along and were swayed by it and it’s still going on,” Geist said.
The accounts, which were geared toward both conservatives and liberals, had hundreds of thousands of followers and while Geist says she never directly followed them, she may have been exposed to some of the content.
People like Donald Trump Jr. and Kellyanne Conway retweeted some posts, and there’s a chance others did as well.
“There’s so much hatred on both sides, so much emotion, that I don’t think there was any one Facebook thing, I think everyone was at odds with each other,” Geist said.
She wasn’t the only one exposed. Students at Central Connecticut State University were familiar with some of the Russian accounts too.
Channel 3 asked the students and Geist if they believed the posts influenced them.
“Whatever they added, didn’t change my opinion. I think (Hillary) Clinton being a fraud was already a fraud,” said Alex Harvey, a freshman at CCSU.
“I don’t think anything influenced me, because my mind had totally been made up,” Geist said.
Now that the Russian interference has been revealed, Geist says no longer will she take random social media posts as fact, but some students weren’t as cautious.
“I look here to see it, there to see it, I look online to see what this place is saying,” Geist said.
“It’s sad to see, but it doesn’t matter. There’s swayed false messages on both sides,” Harvey said.
The government says there’s no reason to believe an American knowingly participated in this and they say it didn’t affect the outcome of the election.
Thirteen Russians have been indicted, but U.S. officials say they most likely will never be punished because Russia won’t extradite them.
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