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Russian internet trolls targeted WNY

Posted at 1:34 PM, Mar 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-06 20:35:37-05

An independent internet news site called "The Daily Beast" is now claiming it has leaked information about the Russian internet troll scheme to influence civil rights activities in WNY and across the country.

According The Daily Beast, the Russian group, using a false Facebook posting called "Blacktivist," tried to reach out to local Black Lives Matter activists Dierra Jenkins and Noah Westfall. 

Westfall told The Daily Beast that he was being contacted about a protest to call attention to India Cummings, a woman who died after being held in the Erie County Holding Center in February 2016.  A Facebook user was trying to get Westfall's help with getting signatures for a petition and printing posters.  Westfall did not end up attending the event.

Dierra Jenkins told WBEN Radio that in April 2016, "Blacktivist" contacted her about an upcoming India Cummings rally.  Jenkins said she had no face-to-face contact with anyone from the group.  The civil rights activist told The Daily Beast it seemed like whoever was running the page was from Buffalo because they were posting stuff that was happening in Buffalo.

13 Russians were indicted last month by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for trying to cause discord and dissent during the 2016 elections.  Investigators believe a Russian operation called the Internet Research Agency set up imposter social media accounts while pretending to be American citizens.  The Russian internet trolls are accused of trying to stir up trouble by attempting to instigate activists on both sides of political and civil rights issues.

The Russian effort did not stop there.  7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly spoke with other local activists who said the internet trolls not only tried to exploit the India Cummings death, but they also focused on a social media site for the Young Black Democrats of WNY in hopes of convincing voters to stay home from the polls.  Hear more in Ed's report.