Five Facebook Ads Designed to Divide America at Russia’s BehestBy and
This week Facebook Inc. turned over to Congress 3,000 ads purchased by groups linked to Russia that were designed to disrupt the 2016 U.S. election and further divide an already polarized nation. Congress and Facebook haven’t yet released the ads to the public, but in recent days various published reports have described the ads and the fake Facebook groups said to be linked to Moscow’s sprawling disinformation operation. Here’s a roundup:
Operatives traced to the Russian government created a Facebook group called United Muslims of America, the Daily Beast reported. The group published outlandish claims designed to divide. Among them: that Hillary Clinton admitted the U.S. backed, funded and armed al-Qaeda and the Islamic State; that Senator John McCain founded ISIS; that Osama bin Laden was a CIA agent. All false. The group bought Facebook ads in an attempt to radicalize American Muslims and simultaneously created other accounts spouting Islamophobic messages to turn other citizens against them.
Black Lives Matter
At least one ad appeared in late 2015 or 2016 purporting to speak for Black Lives Matter, CNN reported. The ad was targeted to reach audiences in Ferguson and Baltimore, where protests against police violence have taken place. The ad (or ads) could be read two ways: as supporting the aims of Black Lives activists or sowing fears that they could threaten residents of Baltimore and Ferguson.
One ad linked to Russian groups features an armed black woman “dry-firing” a rifle, which means pulling the trigger without a bullet in the chamber, the Washington Post reported. The newspaper said investigators hadn’t determined the ad’s motive but that they believed it may have been engineered to stoke African American militancy or fear among whites. Another image depicted Hillary Clinton behind bars, an echo of calls from Donald Trump and his supporters during the campaign to jail the Democratic candidate.
A Facebook page featuring a rainbow symbol said it spoke for a group called LGBT United and declared: “We speak for all fellow members of LGBT community across the nation. Gender preference does not define you. Your spirit defines you,” the New York Times reported.
Another Facebook group linked to Moscow called Secure Borders took aim at immigrants. One advertisement purchased by the group, according to the Times, pictured Trump wearing a Santa costume and saying: “We are going to say Merry Christmas again!” The ad targeted Americans opposed to political correctness and multiculturalism.