Ambush on Black Veterans: Foreign Disinformation Swayed the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election by Targeting Black Voters

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Jackson, Chandlee A. IV


Buckley, Stephen
Napoli, Philip

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A Russian-orchestrated influence campaign spread disinformation using social media during the 2016 United States (U.S.) presidential election. Digital evidence shows that Russian operatives developed presumptions about differing identity groups and tailored their interactions to sow strife between groups. The inferred intent was to influence and negatively impact African Americans’ voting practices during the 2016 election campaign. Russian influence agents targeted the Black community more heavily than any other identity group. Influence operations also targeted veterans and veteran-adjacent communities; therefore, African American veterans (Black Vets) received twice the indoctrination because of their dual identity. The online impersonations of Black people and veterans on social media platforms was problematic for a myriad of reasons, but the Russian leadership’s facilitation of disinformation represents adversarial exploitation of protection gaps uncovered in the Digital Age. Currently the First Amendment inhibits the U.S. government and social media platforms from performing the desired protective measures to maintain a healthy online environment that nurtures an informed citizenry. For Black Vets in particular, foreign entities suppressed the voting power of their ethnic group and sought to instigate members of their profession to join domestic violent extremist groups. The following project will propose that the U.S. government ought to change its approach in teaching digital media literacy competencies so that vulnerable populations receive the care and skills necessary to reduce their potential of becoming radicalized. Russian disinformation on social media and how the U.S. will embrace an identity-centric approach to educating digital media literacy is a matter of U.S. national security.


The Sanford School of Public Policy




disinformation, media literacy, algorithms, national security, African-American, presidential election



Jackson, Chandlee A. IV (2023). Ambush on Black Veterans: Foreign Disinformation Swayed the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election by Targeting Black Voters. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.