Russia stoking U.S. racial, social differences ahead of election: sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – American intelligence and security officials on Tuesday will brief Congress about how Russia has been using social media to stoke racial and social differences ahead of this year’s general election, three sources familiar with the presentations said.

U.S. government experts will say, in classified briefings given to the full U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, that Russian social media efforts are currently more directed at stirring up social divisiveness than promoting particular U.S. presidential candidates, the sources said.

Among specific issues Russian trolls are seeking to exploit are gun control, ethnic group rivalries, tensions between police and local communities, and abortion, the sources said.

On abortion, the U.S. has evidence that Russian cyber-operatives are using social media to stir up antagonism on both sides of the issue, one of the sources said. One of the Russians’ objectives appeared to be to use disagreements over social issues to stir violence, the source said.

Senior Trump Administration officials participating in the Congressional briefings will include Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolfe, FBI Director Christopher Wray and William Evanina, director of the counter-intelligence agency attached to the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), according to Congressional and administration officials.

The Russian Embassy to the United States did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporting By Mark Hosenball; additional reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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