Virtual Hatred: How Russia Tried to Start a Race War in the United States

74 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2019 Last revised: 29 Sep 2019

See all articles by William Aceves

William Aceves

California Western School of Law

Date Written: December 19, 2018


During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the Russian government engaged in a sophisticated strategy to influence the U.S. political system and manipulate American democracy. While most news reports have focused on the cyber-attacks of Democratic Party leaders and possible contacts between Russian officials and the Trump presidential campaign, a more pernicious intervention took place. Throughout the campaign, Russian operatives created hundreds of fake personas on social media platforms and then posted thousands of ads and messages that sought to promote racial divisions in the United States. These were coordinated propaganda efforts. Some Facebook and Twitter posts denounced the Black Lives Matter group; other posts condemned the white nationalist movement. And some called for violence. To be clear, these were posts by fake personas created by Russian operatives. But their effects were real. The purpose of this strategy was to manipulate public opinion on racial issues and disrupt the political process. This Article examines Russia’s actions and considers whether they violate the international prohibitions against racial discrimination and hate speech.

Keywords: Russia, social media, discrimination, race, incitement, propaganda, hate speech, Facebook, Twitter

Suggested Citation

Aceves, William, Virtual Hatred: How Russia Tried to Start a Race War in the United States (December 19, 2018). Michigan Journal of Race & Law, Vol. 24, No. 1, 2019, Available at SSRN:

William Aceves (Contact Author)

California Western School of Law ( email )

225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
United States

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