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Russian Trolls Created Fake 'Take A Knee' Memes For Over A Year

It's not exactly news that Russia has been meddling with the U.S. on the internet — posting fake news to drive Americans apart and sow the seeds of discord that they hope will leave Russia much more powerful on the world stage. But it turns out Russian agents have been working to pit U.S. citizens against each other in other, more subtle ways.

Kremlin-controlled social media accounts have been posting #TakeAKnee memes since last summer:

CNN confirmed that the “Blacktivist” Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts were taken down by the social networks last month after they were proven to have originated from a Kremlin-backed “troll farm” in St. Petersburg. This episode serves as a harrowing reminder that both sides of every American debate are vulnerable to manipulation, and that our enemy's ultimate goal is superiority at the expense of American unity.

Many of the Kremlin-created memes remain online:

The Daily Beast

Oklahoma Senator James Lankford, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Wednesday that accounts under Russia's control have posted inflammatory messages on both sides of the kneeling debate. It's more common to hear about how Russian interference has influenced the conservative side of politics, perhaps because President Trump has, on multiple occasions, re-tweeted Kremlin-generated tweets to his millions of followers.

But the Kremlin is actively seeking to manipulate all Americans. They generated this meme:

The Daily Beast

Senator Lankford said:

They were taking both sides of the argument this weekend... to try to raise the noise level of America and make a big issue seem like an even bigger issue as they are trying to push divisiveness in this country.
The Daily Beast

Polling shows Americans are split on the protests, with 43 percent saying it’s the right thing to do, and 49 percent saying that kneeling during the anthem is the wrong way to express their opinions. The controversy shows no signs of abating, but perhaps we should ask, as our opinions become more polarized and we begin thinking of our fellow citizens as the enemy, whether we're playing into the hand of foreign entities who don't care about the issues. Though some of their social media homepages have now been taken down, cached versions of the Russian-created "Blacktivist" memes can still be found online.

The Daily Beast

H/T - The Daily Beast, Slate