A Russia-Linked Facebook Group Tried to Recruit a Texas Secession Organization to its Cause

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A Russia-Linked Facebook Group Tried to Recruit a Texas Secession Organization to its Cause

It’s no secret by now that Russia tries to subvert American democracy by sowing chaos in as many ways as possible, so it should come as no surprise that they have tried to buttress secession movements. Yes California has raised all sorts of red flags in its campaign pushing for California to leave the union over the past year. Its leader, Louis Marinelli secured a “California” embassy in Moscow shortly after the election. Yes California did not have an embassy in any other country, and its Moscow office was provided rent-free by the Anti-Globalization Movement in Russia.

Marinelli’s wife is a Russian national, and he lived in Russia teaching English last year. He spent the entirety of 2016 pushing for California to secede, and despite the fact that roughly one-third of Californians support secession as of April this year, Marinelli curiously gave up the effort, and announced he is settling permanently in Russia.

Per Business Insider:

Yes California’s links to Russia have been well documented. “Calexit” started trending on Twitter in the hours after the results of the 2016 presidential election were announced. Before then, the PAC received favorable attention from news outlets backed by the Kremlin. Marinelli attended a conference in Moscow dedicated to the right of secession last September.

Which brings us to Texas. Secession has been popular in Texas from the moment they joined the union, so its secession movement is much more organic than the one that seemingly sprung up overnight on the west coast. Natasha Bertrand—a BI reporter who has been covering this Russia ordeal—spoke to Daniel Miller, the president of The Texas Nationalist Movement. Miller said of the shadowy Facebook group linked to Russia, “when they decided to start doing all these ‘Texit’ rallies, they reached out and wanted us to participate, and we said ‘thanks, but no thanks.’”

Miller said that a “gentleman living north of Houston” reached out to him and “identified himself as the admin of the page” named Heart of Texas, which at the time was just “a bunch of Texas pride memes.” However, Miller claimed that “the character of the page changed over time. It got very political.” Their relationship with Miller didn’t get much further than that, as he said “anyone can set up a Facebook page. It doesn’t impress us.” But he still confirmed some kind of effort by a now-banned Facebook group to infiltrate his organic secession movement.

Facebook took down the Texas Nationalist Movement page during their purge of Russian accounts. Heart of Texas created a Twitter profile in November 2015 when both social networks experienced a massive surge of Russia-linked fake accounts, and the typos and unfamiliarity with English throughout its posts further raised suspicion. This is a problem that we are just beginning to understand, and given how late Facebook and Twitter are to fixing it, we should expect more Russian-lead subversion via social media until our Silicon Valley giants figure out how to balance their insatiable desire for more revenue against their allegiance to the government that enables those gains in the first place.

Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.

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