It’s even worse than you think. One of the biggest revelations in Monday’s bombshell reports on Russia’s social media propaganda campaign was that Instagram played a much bigger role than previously known—resulting in 187 million engagements versus 76.5 million engagements on Facebook—at a scale far larger than parent company Facebook has acknowledged. And though the Russian Instagram accounts have since been deleted, they actually have had a greater impact than the new batch of Facebook data suggests: A search of Instagram reveals that at least hundreds of Internet Research Agency (IRA)-linked posts are still alive across the platform through legitimate U.S.-owned Instagram accounts, where they have racked up thousands of likes. Sen. Mark Warner, the Democrat Vice Chair of the Senate committee that commissioned the reports, told Fast Company that the lingering posts were a sign that more investigation is needed. “This is exactly why we thought it was important to release this information to the public—so that we can continue to identify what’s out there, and uncover additional IRA accounts that are still operational,” he said.
While most of the news coverage focused on influence campaigns on Facebook, Instagram was “perhaps the most effective platform” for the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency in its efforts to sow discord and promote President Donald Trump’s campaign, and remains “a key battleground,” noted one of the new reports, by cybersecurity company New Knowledge, Columbia University, and software research and development firm Canfield Research.
“On Instagram, IRA activities did not cease after the 2016 election but became substantially more vigorous” among a broader ecosystem of misinformation, according to the other report, compiled by Oxford University’s Center for Computational Propaganda and the network analysis company Graphika.
Still, the New Knowledge researchers write, the popular photo-sharing app was used at a scale that Facebook executives “appeared to have avoided mentioning in congressional testimony.” Even now, they say, data that could help measure the campaigns’ impact remains out of reach to the public.
Full Article: Russia’s divisive Instagram memes are still racking up likes.