Russia's had its eyes on Instagram to influence US election and it still does

Instagram became a much bigger tool than Facebook for Russian meddling during US Elections.

Two new studies have brought the Russian interference through social media to influence US elections to light once again — this time specifically focusing on how the Instagram became a much bigger tool than Facebook for the political disinformation campaign in the US. There were 187 million engagements with users on Instagram, while there were 77 million on Facebook, one of the studies say.

The fact that Instagram has grown to become more popular than Facebook, we don't know why this wasn't anticipated in the first place.

The two separate studies have been done by researchers at the University of Oxford and the cybersecurity firm New Knowledge. They are comprehensive and reveal insights into how Russia influenced Americans by saturating their favorite online services and apps, and discouraged black voters to help elect Donald Trump in 2016.

The key takeaway has been that the campaign hasn't ended with president Donald Trump's moving to the White House. It will be seen in the 2020 elections and is still underway to create racial and political biases in the country.

The Senate panel which has been investigating the Russian meddling for almost two years has also confirmed that the activities haven't yet stopped.

National flags the US.

National flag of the US.

University of Oxford Report

The Oxford report details how Russians broke down their messages to different groups, including discouraging black voters from going to the polls and stoking anger on the right.

"These campaigns pushed a message that the best way to advance the cause of the African-American community was to boycott the election and focus on other issues instead," the researchers wrote.

Head here to read the Study by the University of Oxford.

New Knowledge Report

The report from New Knowledge says there are still some live accounts tied to the original Internet Research Agency, for an expansive social media campaign intended to influence the 2016 presidential election. Some of the accounts have a presence on smaller platforms as the major companies have tried to clean up after the Russian activity was discovered.

"With at least some of the Russian government's goals achieved in the face of little diplomatic or other pushback, it appears likely that the United States will continue to face Russian interference for the foreseeable future," the researchers wrote.

The Russians even used social media to encourage users of the game Pokemon Go — which was at peak popularity in the months before the 2016 presidential election — to use politically divisive usernames, for example.

Head here to read the Study by New Knowledge.

A polling station in the US during elections.

A polling station in the US during elections.

Key Takeaways

Both reports show that misinformation on Facebook's Instagram may have had a broader reach than the interference on Facebook itself.

Both reports found that Russian agents tried to polarize Americans in part by targeting African-American communities extensively. They did so by campaigning for black voters to boycott elections or follow the wrong voting procedures in 2016, according to the Oxford report.

Even Pokemon Go wasn't spared.

Both reports warn that some of these influence campaigns are ongoing.

Most importantly, they warn that online propaganda represents a threat to democracies and public life. They urge social media companies to share data with the public far more broadly than they have so far.

With inputs from The Associated Press

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