Russia-linked pro-Confederate propaganda still available on Instagram

Months after revelations, Instagram remains a hub for fake Russian material targeting Confederate supporters.

Material from fake Russian accounts is still up on Instagram - including "Captain Confederate." (SCREENSHOT)
Material from fake Russian accounts is still up on Instagram - including "Captain Confederate." (SCREENSHOT)

The figure cuts an obvious silhouette. He’s wearing his familiar, circular shield, the kind he’s had since the Second World War. His helmet bears the wings it’s always known, emblazoned with the “A” we’ve come to recognize.

This, however, isn’t the Captain America who’s dominated films over the past decade. This is, in his stars-and-bars shirt, someone else.

This is “Captain Confederate.” And his image headlines a series of Instagram accounts that all appear connected to fake Russian material recently removed from Facebook — but that remains available for all to see on Instagram.

“Captain Confederate,” shared on an Instagram account that appears to be a fake Russian feed.

The account with “Captain Confederate,” called “South United Pennsylvania,” is one of a series of accounts that appear to spin off from the “South United” account on Facebook that headlined recent congressional investigations into fake Russian feeds. The “South United” account pushed Confederate nostalgia, anti-LGBT rhetoric, and pro-secession sentiment. It was removed during Facebook’s take-down of Russian accounts posing as Americans.

As it is, Instagram has received far less attention than other platforms when it comes to fake Russian material — even though Facebook, which owns Instagram, admitted that at least 20 million users were exposed to the material on Instagram.

Moreover, ThinkProgress’s prior reporting uncovered fake Russian material promoting secession on Instagram, even after Facebook had supposedly removed the accounts identified. That material, focusing specifically on Texas secession, was lifted from one of the more notorious fake Russian accounts, which had organized an armed white supremacist protest in Houston. The Instagram feed was removed after ThinkProgress’s reporting.

But these pro-Confederacy accounts are far more numerous. Beginning over the summer of 2016, with some posting through as late as July this year, all of these accounts appear connected to the original “South United” feed. All of them share the same meme-based watermarks and styles identifying the “South United” account, as well as some of the same “South United” material already removed. These remaining accounts, however, focus on individual states when pushing secessionist sentiment and Confederate hagiography.

None of the accounts have any contact information or other identifying material. Questions sent from ThinkProgress to both the accounts and Facebook went unanswered.

The accounts feature some of the broken, awkward English that highlighted other fake Russian feeds. For instance, the “South United Missouri” account billed itself as “a page for all proud southerners who are from Missouri,” featuring stilted English amidst its pro-Confederacy material. Another, “South United Louisiana,” says it’s a “@south_united page made for the great people of Louisiana,” linking to a “South United” account that has already been removed. One of their posts manages to misspell one of the most well-known cars in American history: “My favorite car is, and always will be The Gemeral [sic] Lee 😄”

My favorite car is, and always will be The Gemeral Lee 😄

A post shared by South United louisiana (@south_united_louisiana) on

Interestingly, some of the accounts target states that were never members of the Confederacy, including New York, Iowa, and Illinois. Louisiana, meanwhile, has two associated accounts.

It’s Pennsylvania, however, that appears to be the most prolific associated account. In addition to reposts from the original “South United” account, the “South United Pennsylvania” feed features many others besides “Captain Confederate.”

In addition to plenty of pro-Confederacy material, one Aug. 2016 post pushed an image of Charles Barkley, while another paired its watermark with the United States Army logo.

The account also shared anti-LGBT material featured on other fake Russian accounts.

Without Facebook or congressional confirmation, it’s impossible to be certain that these accounts were run out of Russia. However, it’s clear that these accounts feature material related to posts previously revealed as Russian — and that they remain live, pushing material from accounts Facebook said it had removed.