Report: Majority of Russian-Based 2016 Facebook Ads Aimed at Racially Dividing U.S.

Nick Kangadis | May 14, 2018
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Judging by a recent USA Today study concerning the Russian company who put Facebook ads out totaling in the thousands, the Russian-based Internet Research Agency had a primary focus: racial division.

Reporters in the USA Today Network went over all 3,517 ads released over a two-year period and found that over half of the ads focused on race-based themes with an end goal to “destabilize Western Democracy by targeting extreme identity groups.”

According to the USA Today:

While some ads focused on topics as banal as business promotion or Pokémon, the company consistently promoted ads designed to inflame race-related tensions. Some dealt with race directly; others dealt with issues fraught with racial and religious baggage such as ads focused on protests over policing, the debate over a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico and relationships with the Muslim community.

The company continued to hammer racial themes even after the election.

So was the Russian mission to influence the 2016 election, or was the real endgame to cause discord among the American people to the point of an ideological civil war? Heck, it’s possible that it could be both.

If we go by the USA Today’s numbers, roughly 56 percent of the ads placed and boosted on Facebook by the Russian agency pertained to racial themes, including ads on both sides of the police brutality debate.

The USA Today also reported:

Divisive racial ad buys averaged about 44 per month from 2015 through the summer of 2016 before seeing a significant increase in the run-up to Election Day. Between September and November 2016, the number of race-related spots rose to 400. An additional 900 were posted after the November election through May 2017.

Let’s keep in mind that the ads argued for both sides of ideological spectrum. Acts that argue both sides of a debate are merely a device used to sow division, in this case the division is of the racial variety.

In the last 10 years, the topic of race has been a lightning rod of uncivil discourse in the U.S., harkening back to the days of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

“Effective polarization can happen when you’re promoting the idea that, ‘I like my group, but I don’t like the other group’ and pushing distance between the two extreme sides,” University of Wisconsin-Madison Young Mie Kim said. “And we know the Russians targeted extremes and then came back with different negative messages that might not be aimed at converting voters, but suppressing turnout and undermining the democratic process.”

As noted by the report, “Only about 100 of the ads overtly mentioned support of Donald Trump or opposition to Hillary Clinton.”

So if the amount of “overtly” pro-Trump ads comes out to only three percent of the total number of Russian-based ads, why is the media obsessed with the Russian collusion narrative? Twenty-four percent of news by networks about Trump over the first two months of 2018 concerned the “Mueller Russia Investigation,” according to Newsbusters.

Should the networks be focusing eight times the coverage the Russians gave to Trump in their ads during their broadcasts? Well, only if your mission is to actively attempt to get a president removed from office.

Networks would be better served calling out the Russians for trying to divide the people of the U.S. by racial lines. But again, that’s not the modus operandi if you’re overtly opposing a sitting president.