The rally itself probably didn’t attract much attention – only a few people were there – but new reports show Russian hackers helped make it happen.
Last year, in May, a handful of people organized outside of the Islamic Da’wah Center in downtown Houston to wave confederate flags and chant ‘white lives matter.’
They were outnumbered by over 100 counter-protestors, according to KHOU.com.
The rally was promoted through the Facebook page ‘Heart of Texas,’ one of many with now known ties to Russian hackers, and the largest page on Facebook in favor of Texas secession from the United States before it was taken down.
According to officials, this illustrates Russian sources can influence people in the United States, though, in this case, the influence was relatively small.
More concerning to intelligence experts is how it happened during the 2016 presidential election season, sparking questions of what other effects pages like ‘Heart of Texas’ could cause for American political views and actions.
FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller even obtained a warrant for information on fake social media pages linked to Russia for use in his ongoing investigation of Russia’s involvement with the 2016 presidential election.
According to the findings so far, Russian hackers targeted the election systems of multiple states last year, succeeding in at least one attempt to break in.
The Islamic Da’wah Center issued the following statement to KHOU concerning the rally:
“Regardless of who was behind it, this unfortunate event is in the past. Instead of dwelling on it, we should reflect on the event with an open mind. The protest demonstrated how Houstonians exercised their constitutional right to voice their opinions peacefully. The hateful words and symbols protesters used tells us that our work is essential to replace those words with words of compassion and understanding. Finally, Kudos to our Houston police department that deserves to be the envy of the country. They dealt with the situation in the most professional manner by maintaining the safety and security to all parties.”
After these and other incidents, the spread of fake news is being recognized as a legitimate threat.
Facebook enacted a group to mark pages as ‘inauthentic,’ continuing to take down pages linked to Russia’s purchased political ads.
Despite their efforts, however, social media bots also continue to post xenophobic articles masquerading as news on social media, but leaders hope increased awareness can stem the spread of misinformation.