Advertisement is powerful for many reasons, including because it operates at conscious and subconscious levels. Advertisement influences everything from where we purchase our necessities to which social issues resonate with us. And in a current climate that includes historically consistent racist violence, increasing ideological tensions and mistrust of the political system, it seems that Russian operatives paid to play with American minds and sway American politics.

America’s social media-fixated president, Donald Trump, could owe part of his electoral victory to Russian workers who bought inflammatory ads on Facebook, according to a news report by the Washington Post. The Post reported that Russians bought the ads, which were seen in the United States millions of times, likely to increase racial tensions in America.

One ad included pictures of “an armed black woman ‘dry firing’ a rifle — pulling the trigger of the weapon without a bullet in the chamber,” sources with familiarity told the Post.

“These ads are racist propaganda, pure and simple,” Malkia Cyril, a California-based Black Lives Matter activist and executive director for the nonprofit Center for Media Justice told the Post. “Whether they appear to be in support or in opposition to black civil rights is irrelevant. Their aim is to subvert democracy for everyone by using anti-black stereotypes — an idea as old as America.”

Twitter later announced it would close 201 accounts connected with the Russians who paid for political advertisements on Facebook. Reportedly Google is undertaking its own investigation to determine potential Russian interference. While social media remains a powerful tool for digital and civil rights advocacy, companies do Americans a disservice when their leaders allow international payments to affect who obtains political power in America.