A Facebook spokesperson has just confirmed that Russian operatives have used the company’s ad tools to organize anti-immigrant political protests in the United States.
The Daily Beast alleges that the spokesperson failed to elaborate, but that “Russian operatives” using false identities used the company’s ad tool to promote events that were both anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant in places like Idaho.
Facebook told reporters that it “shut down several promoted events as part of the takedown we described last week.”
Previously, Facebook disclosed that the Russian firm Internet Research Agency had spent $100,000 on Facebook ads but hadn’t specified what these ads were about. At the time, Facebook’s chief security officer said that the “vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the US presidential election, voting or a particular candidate.”
Now, The Daily Beast says Facebook has confirmed that at least some of these ads were used to promote the anti-immigrant agenda.
One of the events backed by the Russian-bought ads was an Aug. 27, rally in the small Idaho town of Twin Falls where refugees are actually welcome.
The event notice, however, was everything but friendly.
“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 notice explains, finishing with the following:
“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!”
According to the event page, the rally was hosted by “SecuredBorders,” a community page on the social media website with 133,000 followers that was used as a Russian front and that has since been closed by Facebook.
Out of the 48 people who said they were “interested” in the event, only four claim to have actually shown up.
Prior to the event promotion, sites that often push pro-President Donald Trump stories, such as Breitbart, WorldNetDaily, and InfoWars had been putting out several stories involving Twin Falls, The Daily Beast reports. The stories claimed that immigrants were taking over and that there was an “Islamic surge” in the region.
While Facebook did not specify whether the event ads tied to the Russian organization were in any way associated with any explicitly pro-Trump group, this is one of the first times the company has confirmed that the ads paid by Russian operatives were pushing a particular agenda usually tied to pro-Trump sites.
While it’s still early to know exactly how far these ads or the Russian company have gone by using Facebook as a tool between 2015 and 2016, these details emerge as Special Counsel Robert Mueller goes “for the kill” with his Russian probe, making us wonder whether these revelations will at least be reviewed by Mueller’s team as part of a greater effort to influence American voters.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Dado Ruvic