On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minneapolis. His killing was captured on Facebook Live, which created an outrage across the nation. The officer, John Choi, who killed the 32-year-old teacher was charged with one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm. He was acquitted of all charges on June 16, 2017. Now info has come out that Russian bots used the Castile tragedy to create even more divisions in the country.
CNN.com reported that a Facebook account was created under the title “Don’t Shoot,” hours after Castile was shot. The account began running ads in the Minneapolis area. The page had 250,000 Facebook users and links to other social media pages. Local activists were suspicious and messaged the page asking who they were affiliated with, but they didn’t receive a response. They ignored the page until CNN recently contacted them to inform them the page was being run by Russian trolls.
CNN.com reports, “By the time of Castile’s death in July 2016, the troll group, operating out of a St. Petersburg office, was allegedly a multi-million-dollar effort, with dozens of people working night and day running a network of thousands of fake American social media accounts, posing as activists on everything from Black Lives Matter to Texas secession.” The site continued, “The group’s creation and promotion of a protest after Castile’s death wasn’t unusual, congressional investigators and journalists would later find. … The group had given control of the Castile protest over to real groups in Minneapolis, essentially turning the real activists into unwitting operatives, helping against their will to stage an event conceived of in Russia. The group’s successful exploitation of American activism shows the perils of campaigning in the digital age.”
Valerie Castile, Philando’s mother, told CNN.com, “God gave him [Philando Castile] to me, nobody had the right to take him from me. One man should not have that much power to say who lives and who dies. No, one man shouldn’t have that much power, and then to take such a sad situation and exploit it, no, I don’t like that at all and for them to use my baby, no.”