Narrative Fail: Russia Facebook Ads Showed Support for Black Lives Matter, Clinton
The Democrats' Trump/Russia collusion narrative took a major hit this week when Facebook leaks about Russia-linked ads forced disappointed Dems to walk back their anti-Trump messaging. Congressional leaders, in the meantime, have reportedly renewed their focus on Team Obama's election-year political espionage.
The anti-Trumpers' promising story-line -- "Trump and Russia colluded on Facebook" -- had to be downgraded to merely "Russia sought to create incivility and chaos" when it was discovered that the Russia-linked group in question promoted issues and groups on both sides of the political spectrum.
According to Facebook's investigators, the company sold up to $150,000 worth of ads to a Russian government-affiliated troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency, which bought the ads through hundreds of phony Facebook pages and accounts.
The intelligence community describes the Internet Research Agency as "a state-funded organization that blogs and tweets on behalf of the Kremlin."
At least one of the over 3,000 Russia-bought ads, which Facebook will soon turn over to Congress, promoted Black Lives Matter and specifically targeted audiences in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, CNN reported on Wednesday.
The Black Lives Matter ad appeared on Facebook at some point in late 2015 or early 2016, the sources said. The sources said it appears the ad was meant to appear both as supporting Black Lives Matter but also could be seen as portraying the group as threatening to some residents of Baltimore and Ferguson.
New descriptions of the Russian-bought ads shared with CNN suggest that the apparent goal of the Russian buyers was to amplify political discord and fuel an atmosphere of incivility and chaos, though not necessarily to promote one candidate or cause over another. Facebook's review of Russian efforts on its platform focused on a timeframe from June 2015 to May 2017.
These ranged from posts promoting Black Lives Matter to posts promoting gun rights and the Second Amendment to posts warning about what they said was the threat undocumented immigrants posed to American democracy. Beyond the election, Russians have sought to raise questions about western democracies.
According to the Washington Post, other ads showed support for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton among Muslim women.
"This is consistent with the overall goal of creating discord inside the body politic here in the United States, and really across the West," said Steve Hall, a former CIA officer and CNN national security analyst. "It shows they the level of sophistication of their targeting. They are able to sow discord in a very granular nature, target certain communities and link them up with certain issues."
Republican Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday that there's "no evidence yet" that Russians and Trump officials colluded on the Facebook ads, but said "it's an area the committee continues to investigate."