Donald Trump's campaign was built on hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric, and Russian operatives hoping to help elect him to the White House used Facebook to organize hateful rallies to boost his message.
Russian operatives used Facebook to organize political protests in 2016 that pushed the same racist, anti-immigrant message as Donald Trump’s political campaign.
In a comment to The Daily Beast, which uncovered the clandestine operation, Facebook confirmed that the events were promoted on the social media juggernaut with paid ads.
It was recently exposed that Russia-affiliated organizations targeting voters spent thousands to amass a following on the site that would expose potentially millions in key electoral states to their propaganda campaign during the election.
U.S. intelligence agencies have verified that Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to derail Hillary Clinton’s campaign and preferred an election outcome where Trump won.
The Facebook events were posted on the account of the phony group “SecureBorders,” which was a Russian front. The posting called for a protest in Twin Falls, Idaho, which it described as “a center of refugee resettlement, which led to the huge upsurge of violence towards American citizens.”
The posting went on to echo Trump’s push to ban Muslims from the United States, proclaiming, “We must stop taking in Muslim refugees! We demand open and thorough investigation of all the cases regarding Muslim refugees! All government officials, who are covering up for these criminals, should be fired!”
The story behind the protest was fake news that was being promoted at the same time by pro-Trump outlets online. These outlets claimed that Syrian refugees in Idaho had “gang-raped a child at knife-point,” which was false.
Infowars, the site run by conspiracy theorist and Trump mega-fan Alex Jones, was at the forefront of these claims, which he tried to connect to the yogurt company Chobani, located in Twin Falls. Chobani has become a target of the conservative movement because it hires refugees. Jones was forced to retract his claims after Chobani sued him.
Russia’s use of Facebook to target localities for political means echoes similar tactics that the official Trump campaign used. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, previously said, “We found that Facebook and digital targeting were the most effective ways to reach the audiences.”
Kushner said the campaign brought in the firm Cambridge Analytica to help build up its microtargeting operation, which was used “as the nerve center that drove a lot of the deployment of our ground game resources.” Cambridge Analytica has been bankrolled by billionaire Robert Mercer, who has also invested in pro-Trump outlets like Breitbart.
The FBI has reportedly been examining the Trump campaign’s data operation, and officials told CNN they are “examining whether Russian operatives used people associated with the campaign — wittingly or unwittingly — to try to help Russia’s own data targeting.”
Nearly every day, data is emerging to show how Russia leveraged Facebook and other social media as part of a massive campaign to elect Donald Trump, as more evidence reveals collusion with Russian operatives at the highest levels of Trump’s campaign.