Buzzfeed is reporting on another example of Russian attempts to influence the American political process and sow discord among Americans. However, the operation in question had nothing to do directly with the 2016 presidential election. It had everything to do with pouring gasoline on the fire of the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy. A coalition consisting of a Native American tribe and environmental groups attempted to block the pipeline through legal action and direct protest , which included civil disobedience at the site where it was being built.

How the Russians influenced the pipeline debate

In times past, back when the Soviet Union still existed, Moscow had to go to the trouble of forming front organizations and planting fake news stories in friendly media. Now, thanks to the Internet, a group with the innocuous name of the Internet Research Agency, all Russia has to do is to open bogus social media accounts and upload propaganda under the names of phantom, nonexistent organizations.

In the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Russians opened an Instagram account called @Native_Americans_United that was used to upload ads that subsequently went viral. One compared the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline to desecrating a military cemetery, implying the false charge that the pipeline was being built on sacred Native American land.

Another showed a stereotypical Native American telling “racists” that they are living on his land.

Russian active measures being used to support a number of protest groups

The Dakota Access Pipeline protest was not the only political movement to get clandestine help from the Internet Research Agency. Black Lives Matter and even some pro-Trump groups have also received an assist from Moscow.

The strategy is used to fan the political flames of political controversy in the United States, dividing Americans against one another. The goal is to weaken the United States in this way to the benefit of Russia.

What does this have to do with the election?

Thus far no evidence has come to light proving the conspiracy theory advanced by Democrats that the Russians and the Trump campaign somehow colluded to steal the 2016 presidential election.

Ironically, the Russians seem to have targeted Hillary Clinton, since she was first secretary of state to gain access and influence over her.

However, noting the pattern of the active measures operations that the Russians have conducted in recent years against the United States, it is not outside the realm of possibility that the Internet Research Agency is behind some of the social media hot takes advancing the idea of that conspiracy. Nothing divides Americana more than the idea that the sitting president is illegitimate.