Last week, we learned Facebook was preparing to give Congress 3,000 Russian-purchased ads through 470 phony pages and accounts that suggest African American rights groups, like Black Lives Matter, posed a political threat, in an effort to exploit racial divisions during the 2016 presidential campaign season.
Facebook said at least $100,000 was spent for this purpose, a mere fraction of its political advertising during the 2016 campaign.
As evidence mounts, it is now confirmed that Russia used Facebook’s ad targeting system to help President Donald Trump carry at least Wisconsin and Michigan in November.
Exploiting Facebook’s ability to send conflicting messages to users based on their political and demographic characteristics, the Russian cyber endeavors also intended to create a rift among religious groups, such as emphasizing Muslim women’s support for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
According to CNN:
“A number of Russian-linked Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two states crucial to Donald Trump’s victory last November, according to four sources with direct knowledge of the situation. Some of the Russian ads appeared highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal, two of the sources said. The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages, sources said.”
Facebook reaches two billion people each month. It discovered the Russian ads after fruitless months of trying to trace a disinformation campaign to Russia.
With the goal of appealing to certain audiences and alienating others, previously undisclosed ads suggest Russian operatives referenced evolving lists of racial, religious, political, and economic themes, which they used to create pages, posts, and ads to appear in users’ news feeds.
Trump won Wisconsin and Michigan with a combined 33,400 votes. This victory is less surprising when we factor in the already-verified proof Russia used Facebook to also organize rallies for Trump in Florida and Pennsylvania.
As the investigation in Russian collusion rolls along, we will likely see more states have been infiltrated.
Image credit: Politicususa