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The Left’s Plan to Slip Vote-Swaying News Into Facebook Feeds

Democratic strategist Tara McGowan’s Courier Newsroom is out to counter the right-wing echo chamber with a dose of hypertargeted “hometown news.”

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Tara McGowan

Tara McGowan

Photographer: Dolly Faibyshev for Bloomberg Businessweek

In the days after the White House released a readout of Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine, setting off the impeachment saga, Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee made a major financial move designed to shape public opinion. Operating jointly, they dumped millions of dollars into Facebook and Google ads to send a counter-narrative coursing through the internet. In this alternate reality Trump was the victim, not the perpetrator, of an effort to enlist foreign interference in a U.S. election. He was fighting, not encouraging, Ukrainian corruption. And Democrats were the bad guys. (“When President Trump asks Ukraine to investigate corruption,” went one ad, “the Democrats want to IMPEACH him—and their media lapdogs fall in line!”)

Almost instantly, conservative websites and Facebook pages with millions of followers lit up with Trump’s exculpatory storyline, creating a kind of a parallel universe in which a reader seeking to understand the day’s headlines would come away learning roughly the opposite of what the facts of the Ukraine scandal appear to show.