Russian President Vladimir Putin should not underestimate savvy Americans using social networking services. Neither Reverend Heber Brown, III, nor Brittany Oliver were duped by puppet master Putin’s paid internet troll using the Twitter monikers @FreddieGrayAnn and, later, @BlacktivistDave based on a report by the Baltimore Sun yesterday.

The duplicitous paid Putin troll promoted a rally in recognition of the one-year anniversary of Freddie Gray’s death. When the Blacktivist exploited Gray’s death, authentic community activists in Baltimore acted on their suspicions.

‘Blactivist’ troll’s attempt to misappropriate death of Freddie Gray failed on Twitter

Brown contacted the Twitter account user @FreddieGrayAnn, pointing out “you’re from California.” He stated that “many people” were leery of “outsiders” going to Baltimore to exploit Gray’s death for self-serving purposes.

The Sun reported that Brown noticed that the account holder was using Gray’s photo for a profile picture. That, Brown stated, “perturbed” him. He also said that much like many people, he feels protective toward Baltimore, where he is the senior pastor at Pleasant Hope Baptist Church located in North Baltimore. Brown is also a community organizer.

Brittany Oliver, who is a community advocate, explained, “No one had ever heard of a Blacktivist before,” according to the Sun. She elaborated, “The way they were responding to us was really off.” News media has connected the dots, several months longer than it took both Brown and Oliver to discern. The Blactivist account – and its preceding account handles – is married to the Russian government.

Russian troll attempted exploiting racial tension on Twitter and Facebook

The fake Blacktivist also used Facebook.

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The goal was to exploit pre-existing racial tensions during the presidential race in 2016. Twitter and Facebook have since suspected the accounts.

After riots in 2015 following Gray’s death, there was a social media advertisement targeting Facebook users in Baltimore. The Sun relayed that cybersecurity analysts theorize that the ad was probably a facet of a “broader effort by Russia to sow discontent and deepen racial tension.” Facebook is planning to give congressional representatives 3,000 advertisements that Russia bought.

State delegate told Russian ‘Blactivist’ to ‘call’ his office

Delegate Nick Mosby, MD, was a city councilman when Blacktivist was misappropriating Gray’s name and photo, along with trying to stimulate discord for Russia. Mosby also caught on to something being amiss. He replied to a tweet from Blactivist, stating, “Call my office.” He told the Sun that it is customary to “weed out” people who are sincere about participating.

Adam Jackson is the CEO of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a Baltimore-based organization.

Jackson told the Sun that activists were concerned that someone was seeking to co-opt “their message.” After the Blacktivist account holder began campaigning to engage Baltimore area residents and community organizers, “we all saw through that,” Jackson said.

Additionally, he pointed out that whether it was Russian officials behind the Blactivist moniker, it still comes down to using black people and respective conversations for convenience, as a “touchpoint as opposed to standing in solidarity.”