Russia Amplifying Critical Race Theory. Iran, China Mum on the Subject.

State-controlled or affiliated accounts on Twitter belonging to Russia, China, and Iran were searched for mentions of “critical race theory.”

This short report examines the Twitter activity of state-controlled or affiliated accounts belonging to Russia, China, and Iran.1 These were searched for mentions of the words “critical race theory.”

Neither China nor Iran mentioned “critical race theory” on state-affiliated accounts, but Russia had done so 24 times. Notably, Russia’s entrance into the conversation happens before the media blitz in the US, preceded by the seeding phase of a campaign where content and stories are published but received little attention. Russia enters the conversation Aug 2020, between the Jul 2020 seed posts and the media blitz that begin in early 2021.

Multiple researchers have found evidence that suggests the topic has been astroturfed and amplified by coordinated, inauthentic activity.2

The conversation began with an article on July 13, 2020, from the Daily Caller Foundation which was re-published on multiple sites.3 Two days later on July 15, a Twitter user posted a shocking-reveal style thread that discussed critical race theory. On July 17, a man named Vincent James posted the Twitter thread to his Telegram Channel, which has about 37,000 subscribers.

Before that, the term has virtually no search interest history on Google, going all the way back to 2004. The singular blip coincides with the death of a Black child who was walking through a neighborhood after buying a drink and candy. He was shot and the killer, never charged.4

The earliest Twitter posts from RT containing the words "critical race theory" date back to Aug 21, 2020, about a month after the original story was seeded. Critical race theory mentions appear in the RT Telegram channel early on in the timeline. The earliest known post from RT on Telegram is from January of 2021.5

The earliest messages about critical race theory found on Telegram were from the Daily Caller, Vincent James, former President Donald Trump, Candace Owens, Dan Bongino, Turning Point USA, Steve Bannon, Gateway Pundit, RT, and Jack Posobiec. Inclusion in this list does not demonstrate nefarious intent or activity.

Worthy of note, the RT Telegram messages started later than its Twitter activity that began in Aug 2020. The Telegram channel only sprang to life in the wake of the Jan 6th Capitol attack.6

Prior to Jan 2021, the channel existed but appears to have been relatively inactive and without a large audience. After January 6th, the RT Telegram channel posts increased in frequency and shifted in messaging. The Russian-backed outlet made a concerted effort to rebrand as a defender of free speech, going so far as redesigning the website banners and changing its Twitter bio.

The changes all promoted and urged readers to join the RT Telegram Channel. Content began to portray Putin as a defender of free speech and posts a far more inflammatory and divisive stream of content than on its Twitter account. In February the channel had around 12,000 subscribers and today it now boasts around 50,000.7

As of June 23, 2021, Iran and China appear not to have discussed the topic, but Russia has a fair amount.8 The curious aspect of this is the timing of Russia’s entrance into the conversation in Aug 2020 at the latest. Critical race theory conversation appears to be manufactured, as shown in the media data visualizations above.

Researchers also uncovered astroturf campaigns that boosted the topic and gave it the appearance of a grassroots movement.9 It’s unclear what this sequence suggests and it could be explained multiple ways, plausibly.

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Data collection and analysis by E Rosalie. Questions, corrections, or comments can be sent to editor @ novel-science.com.

1

A list of accounts included in the search can be found here:

“Hamilton Monitored Accounts on Twitter.” n.d. The Alliance for Securing Democracy. Accessed June 23, 2021. https://securingdemocracy.gmfus.org/hamilton-monitored-accounts-on-twitter/.

2

“Researcher Uncovers ‘Critical Race Theory’ Astroturfing Campaign.” 2021. Accessed June 23, 2021. https://www.vice.com/en/article/g5g5ny/researcher-uncovers-critical-race-theory-astroturfing-campaign.

3

Hukeri, Varun. 2020. “Colleges Are Hiring More Diversity Officers Than Ever — Here’s How Racial Resentment Could Be Contributing.” The Daily Caller. July 13, 2020. https://dailycaller.com/2020/07/13/colleges-diversity-officers-racial-resentment-george-floyd-critical-race-theory/.

4

CNN. 2013. “Trayvon Martin Shooting Fast Facts,” June 5, 2013. https://www.cnn.com/2013/06/05/us/trayvon-martin-shooting-fast-facts/index.html.

5

https://web.archive.org/web/20210613182527/https://t.me/rtintl/904

6

Rosalie, E. 2021. “Russian State-Media Aligns With GOP Messaging After Capitol Attack.” Rantt Media. February 19, 2021. https://rantt.com/russian-state-media-aligns-with-gop-messaging-after-capitol-attack.

8

The Alliance for Defending Democracy. Hamilton Dashboard 2.0. Accessed June 23, 2021. https://securingdemocracy.gmfus.org/hamilton-search/?q=%22critical+race+theory%22.

9

“Researcher Uncovers ‘Critical Race Theory’ Astroturfing Campaign.” 2021. Accessed June 23, 2021. https://www.vice.com/en/article/g5g5ny/researcher-uncovers-critical-race-theory-astroturfing-campaign.