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Russia-backed "Blacktivist" FB page sold merchandise
A Russia-backed Facebook page called "Blacktivist" sold a number of branded items online as part of its effort to exacerbate racial tensions before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to a new report by CNN.
A total of 87 items, including T-shirts and sweatshirts with messages such as "young, gifted and black" and "our sons matter," were sold on the store service, according to CNN.
The Facebook page and the items being sold appear to be part of a broader effort by Russia to cause chaos in the election.
In this case, observers believe the Facebook advertisements were meant to cause friction between groups of Americans and to cause racial discord.
The account sold the merchandise online through a sales platform called "Represent." The items featured consistent branding with both the "Blacktivist" Facebook and Twitter accounts, though there is no way to definitively say the accounts opened the online store.
"Represent" shut down the store after being contacted by CNN about the nefarious account, which is one of hundreds that were turned over to Congress in its investigation into Russian interference in the election.
"Blacktivist" was also found to have helped organize several rallies and political demonstrations in the U.S. at the time of the election.
The founder of a company that monitors online propaganda told CNN that the move by Russians to physically play a role in U.S. politics is a typical one, saying that they were actively attempting to "pit Americans against each other" and deepen partisan divides in the country during the election.
Both companies are set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Nov. 1 and previously briefed the House and Senate intelligence committees on Russia's use of social media to influence the election and sow discord among Americans.
The testimonies come after Twitter announced it had found a total of 201 accounts with possible links to Russian operatives attempting to influence Americans during the election season. Facebook gave congressional investigators this week 3,000 advertisements bought out by a Kremlin-linked group.