Russians used Facebook to help elect Donald Trump, and now we know that it wasn’t just via spreading fake news stories. The operatives created Facebook events to organize rallies around pro-Trump policies like anti-immigration, The Daily Beast reported.
The development comes just days after Facebook revealed that accounts linked to Russia used fake accounts to spend about $100,000 on about 3,000 ads during the 2016 presidential election. Those ads could have been seen by millions of Americans, according to several experts in Facebook ads.
But little was known on what exactly the ads were. With all the talk of fake news, the public suspected it was more false stories. In fact, the ads included promoting what could have been real events, such as an anti-immigration rally in August 2016 and an anti-Muslim rally in Idaho, according to The Daily Beast. One of those events was hosted by a Facebook Page “SecuredBorders,” which had 133,000 followers until Facebook shut it down last month.
“We shut down several promoted events as part of the takedown we described last week,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to The Daily Beast and shared with Mashable.
That means these events were not only created and spread organically on Facebook, but also means the Russian operatives paid Facebook to target them to specific individuals on the social network.
Facebook refused to share the content of the ads suspected to be shared by accounts linked to Russia.
“Due to both federal law and the fact that investigations are ongoing with the relevant authorities, we’re unable to share the ads,” a Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider last week.
Those involved in the 2016 election and lawmakers like Sen. Mark Warner are arguing for transparency from Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who once said that the idea of his social network swaying the election was a “pretty crazy idea.” While television advertising requires political campaigns to report how much they spend, where, and with what, no such regulations exist for digital ads.
“I do think that Facebook and Twitter and other entities in digital advertising should do the right thing moving forward and be more transparent and how targeting works and where the money is coming from,” Keegan Goudiss, director of digital advertising for the Bernie Sanders campaign, told Mashable last week.
“There is so much at stake, and there is so much misinformation out there. It shouldn’t take a subpoena to get that information,” he said.