On Monday morning, ThinkProgress reported on the existence of an Instagram account that went live around the time Facebook began removing hundreds of Russia-linked accounts in August. This “Raised in Texas” Instagram account posted the same material as the now-defunct “Heart of Texas” Facebook page, which was itself run out of Russia.
By Monday afternoon, the Instagram account had disappeared.
It remains unclear whether the “Raised in Texas” Instagram account, which began posting on Aug. 21 and described itself as the “Page Only for REAL Texans!”, was linked to the “Heart of Texas” page. Facebook did not return requests for comment, and the “Raised in Texas” account failed to answer ThinkProgress’s questions before it disappeared.
However, there are any number of indicators that should give Facebook and Instagram pause – and which highlight the issues remaining for the tech giants surrounding fraudulent foreign accounts aimed at inflaming America’s socio-political divides.
For instance, in the few weeks since the “Raised in Texas” account went live, it posted many of the exact same memes that the “Heart of Texas” page posted – complete with the exact same watermark – despite the fact that Facebook has removed all of the “Heart of Texas” memes, and continues to withhold them from the public. Some of the memes even included some of the most egregious typos the “Heart of Texas” page pushed before it was pulled down, as well as new misspellings.
Like the “Blacktivist” and “Secured Borders” accounts identified thus far as run by Russian operatives, the “Raised in Texas” page also used its own watermark on its posts, and included the same font as the “Heart of Texas” page on its memes. And like the other accounts revealed thus far, there was no contact information listed.
It also pushed many of the same themes identified on the “Heart of Texas” page, ranging from anodyne Texas-related posts – centered largely on armadillos, Dr. Pepper, and Whataburger – to far-right, pro-Confederacy messaging.
At one point, the page even shared a screenshot from a Breitbart article about Donald Trump’s donations.
Unlike the “Heart of Texas” page, the “Raised in Texas” account didn’t appear to attempt to organize any events – at least, nothing that involved armed, anti-Islam protesters, who arrived in Houston in May 2016 at the behest of the “Heart of Texas” page. Likewise, the “Raised in Texas” account didn’t gain anywhere near the quarter-million followers the “Heart of Texas” page saw, although in just a few weeks it had already accrued over 1,500 followers.
But the apparent importance of the “Raised in Texas” account doesn’t lie in its follower count, or in its lack of on-the-ground organization. Rather, the account’s existence – and the fact that it ran for weeks after Facebook announced their own findings, and was only pulled down after ThinkProgress’s report – points to the fact that Facebook and Instagram appear as if they’re continuing to deal with these accounts only on a post-hoc and inconclusive basis, despite their continued pledges otherwise.