Propaganda Watch: Russian Social Media Ads–3/31/19

Russian President Vladimir Putin superimposed into a Russian Flag. Image by Lenny Ghoul.

This is part of an ongoing series where I review some of the ads purchased by the Russians. In doing so I hope we can get a better understanding of what they were trying to do, and how to recognize it the next time we’re faced with propaganda.

If you want to follow along, the ads can all be downloaded here.

I can’t break down the ads for the 2015-q3/2015-09 file as easily as the previous ones. September of 2015 saw a lot of crossover between groups. Some of the ads for “Don’t Shoot” led to the “Black Journey To Justice” page like this one (p(1)0003624):

Or the “Heart of Texas” ad tied to “Time To Secede” (p(1)0002708):

I don’t know if this was accidental, where the ad creators couldn’t keep their groups straight, or a conscious effort to tie different groups together to give them more of an air of legitimacy. Hopefully I’ll find out more as I go into the upcoming folders. For now, though, instead of breaking down the totals by group, I’ll break them down by subject:

  • Black issues: 47 posts
  • Texit: 22 posts
  • Generic patriotism: 10 posts
  • LGBT issues: 5 posts

On a personal note, looking into these ads has changed how I interact with social media. I’ve found myself looking more and more into various memes and posts, looking up the original posters, seeing if they have any sort of history or if they just happened to appear online around 2015 or later. So many of the ads I’ve come across looked familiar, or in other research, seeing ones that had been reposted within my circle over and over again. Even if I agree with the meme, I can’t just repost it without going down that rabbit hole of trying to verify that it wasn’t a Russian division ad. It gets tiring and frustrating, and I’ve gained a bit of sympathy for my friends who did post fake stuff. It takes a lot more effort to verify the legitimacy of posts than most people want to put towards their social media usage. To be honest, the only things I don’t overly check anymore are cat videos because, even if they’re Russian cats, they’re still cats.

It may not be possible to fight every ad, but we can try, right?

For now, please enjoy this Open Thread, and enjoy this video of a very large Russian cat:

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