Russia may not have just meddled in the presidential election; they are also meddling with American minds through social media. Russia has apparently used Facebook to organize anti-immigrant events that echo pro-Trump themes. Russian operatives using false identities used Facebook’s event management tool to organize and promote political protests in the U.S., including an August 2016 anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rally in Idaho, according to the Daily Beast.
A spokesperson for Facebook confirmed that the social media platform “shut down several promoted events as part of the takedown we described last week.” Facebook did not elaborate but did confirm that the events were supported by paid ads. This confirmation is an indication that the Kremlin attempted to shape the political discourse not just with fake news but with an organized effort that led to real action.
“This is the next step,” Clint Watts, a former FBI agent and expert on Russia’s influence campaign, said. “The objective of influence is to create behavior change. The simplest behavior is to have someone disseminate propaganda that Russia created and seeded. The second part of behavior influence is when you can get people to physically do something.”
Facebook acknowledged for the first time that Russia used false identities and 3,000 paid ads to spread politically divisive posts to Americans before and after the election. The content of the ads was likely seen by between 23 and 70 million people based on the $100,000 ad purchase.
Most of the information purchased by the Russian propaganda campaign has been deleted. But there are remnants still visible in search engine caches. You can still find a 2016 ad on Facebook events that announces an August 27th rally in an Idaho town that has welcomed refugees.
“Due to the town of Twin Falls, Idaho, becoming a center of refugee resettlement, which led to the huge upsurge of violence towards American citizens, it is crucial to draw society’s attention to this problem,” the event notice said. The protest scheduled on the ad was called “Citizens before refugees.” It was to be held at the City Council Chambers starting at 11 am. The invitation needs with a passionate exhortation.
Is this surprising to you? Did you know that Russia was behind the organization of some of the events like the one in Idaho?