A long-canceled Facebook event in Idaho, attended by only four people, is highlighted by the Daily Beast as an example of the Russian government’s alleged campaign to influence the US 2016 presidential election.
The Kremlin set up Facebook events to organize protests in the US, including the one in August 2016 calling to ban Muslim refugees from the rural town of Twin Falls, Idaho, the outlet alleged in an article referencing Facebook’s hunt for suspected Russian operatives.
The publication said Facebook confirmed that it “shut down several promoted events as part of the takedown” of fake user profiles last week. The social media giant did not specify the events, however.
The Daily Beast writers concluded that the Facebook events “are the first indication that the Kremlin’s attempts to shape America’s political discourse moved beyond fake news and led unwitting Americans into specific real-life action.”
RT has reached out to Facebook for comment on whether the social media giant thought the “Citizens before refugees” event in Idaho was organized by the Kremlin. We also reached out to the Daily Beast, asking how their writers arrived at their conclusion. We have received no response as of yet.
Facebook shows that only four people marked themselves as having attended the Idaho protest in question.
This cancelled Facebook event with 4 people saying they were going is gonna be Exhibit A for Russian disinfo articles for years ¯_(ツ)_/¯
— Aric Toler (@AricToler) September 12, 2017
The event was set up by a Facebook community called “Secured Borders,” which has since been shut down amid reports that it was operated from Russia. Facebook has yet to respond to RT’s question on what exactly was the basis for deleting the community’s page.
The events were “the next step” of Russia’s influence campaign, “when you can get people to physically do something,” the Daily Beast cited Clint Watts, founder of the “Alliance for Securing Democracy,” which operates Hamilton 68, the operation that claims to be “tracking Russia’s influence on Twitter.”
Last week, Watts’ group accused Russia of promoting hurricane preparedness websites such as ready.gov, hurricanes.gov and redcross.org.
On September 6, Facebook issued a statement saying it looked into questions on whether Russia purchased ads on the platform to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election.
The social-media giant claimed it “found approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June of 2015 to May of 2017″ connected to “about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies. Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.”
The ads and accounts “appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum,” rather than referencing the election or a particular candidate, Facebook said.
The company did not elaborate what its attribution was based on, but added that it also looked for ads “with very weak signals of a connection and not associated with any known organized effort. This was a broad search, including, for instance, ads bought from accounts with US IP addresses but with the language set to Russian — even though they didn’t necessarily violate any policy or law.”
The statement prompted some on social media to question whether political events set up by Russian-Americans, or just Russians in the US, could be viewed as part of a nefarious influence campaign and then be targeted.
Neither Facebook nor the Daily Beast immediately responded to RT’s inquiries on whether they thought activity by someone in Russia, or a Russian speaker, automatically implicated the Kremlin.
Following Facebook’s findings last week, Google said it failed to unearth any facts that would implicate Russia in exploiting its advertising tools to manipulate the US election.
“We’re always monitoring for abuse or violations of our policies and we’ve seen no evidence this type of ad campaign was run on our platforms,” Google said in a statement Thursday, as cited by Reuters.