Russia may have used Facebook to organise pro-Trump rallies in 17 cities during US election

The Daily Beast has published evidence that Russian Facebook accounts organised real rallies in support of Donald Trump.

Facebook groups run by Russian trolls are reported to have organised pro-Trump rallies in the USJONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images

A now defunct Facebook group called "Being Patriotic" is reported to have been involved in attempting to organise over a dozen pro-Donald Trump rallies in Florida during the US election season last year.

According to The Daily Beast, at least one event actually ended up bringing the Trump supporters together in real life. The report says that this is the first uncovered instance of Russian groups mobilising Americans in direct support of Trump.

Accounts that were run out of a Russian group called the "Internet Research Agency" (IRA) were reportedly taken down earlier this year by Facebook.

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IRA, according to a report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is a group "of professional trolls located in Saint Petersburg is a close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence."

Although it is not clear if the Being Patriotic page was run by the IRA, there is evidence to show that the images and meme-like posts have watermarks similar to the ones found on IRA posts, The Daily Beast reports.

Events that were organised in August of last year included a "patriotic state-wide flash mob," says the report. Such events were collectively called "Florida goes Trump" in these pages. The events were designed to be held simultaneously in 17 different locations.

However, it is not really possible to definitively point out how many of these locations actually held these rallies, partially because several hundred Russian Facebook accounts were either deleted or suspended.

There is also evidence, says the report, to prove that at least two such rallies did take place in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs with photographs and videos that were posted to other Facebook groups run by the Trump campaign. Those pictures and videos are still up on those pages, the report says.

"On August 20, we want to gather patriots on the streets of Floridian towns and cities and march to unite America and support Donald Trump!", read the post that invited people for the event, according to the report. This flash mob was one of the many anti-Hillary and pro-Trump rallies that the Being Patriotic Facebook page is said to have organised. The page is also reported to have been accompanied by a Twitter account called "march_for_trump".

Being Patriotic at one time had over 200,000 followers, notes the report. It is being identified as one of the strongest Pro-Trump Russia pages that have so far been caught. It was reported that this page even promoted several events like a "Down with Hillary!" protest outside Clinton's New York campaign headquarters in July as well as a pro-Trump victory rally outside Trump Tower, in New York.

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Facebook has recently been under fire for admitting to the fact that they were not adequately prepared to catch Russian propaganda when it happened.

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