Several number of Russian-linked Facebook ads were specifically targeting Wisconsin and Michigan last November during the U.S. elections, according to four sources familiar with the situation. Both Wisconsin and Michigan were crucial for the victory of Donald Trump in the United States Presidential elections.
Were Russian-linked ads targeted after assistance by someone?
Two of the sources, which have definite knowledge on the matter, said that a number of Russian ads were quite sophisticated in their targeting of “key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal.” Sources said that the ads employed a series of divisive messages that were aimed at breaking through the mess of campaign ads online, which include promoting anti-Muslim messages, anti-LGBT messages, etc.
Michigan and Wisconsin were among the states that helped Donald Trump win the presidency over Democratic competitor Hillary Clinton. The US president carried Michigan by 10,700 votes and Wisconsin by 22,748 votes. Until now, it was unclear exactly which regions of the country were targeted by the ads. While one source said that a “large number of ads appeared in areas of the country that were not heavily contested in the elections, some clearly were geared at swaying public opinion in the most heavily contested battlegrounds.”
Both Michigan and Wisconsin, which Trump carried by less than 1%, were important for Trump’s victory in the Electoral College. The four sources, however, did not specify when the ads ran in the two states last year. The special counsel Robert Mueller as well as congressional committees, as part of their investigations, are trying to determine if the Russians got any aid from Trump associates in determining which areas to target the ads.
Intelligence Committee still investigating the matter
The senior White House officials and the U.S. President have insisted that there was never any collusion with Russia while the White House officials could not be immediately reached for a comment on the story. On the micro-blogging site – Twitter – the President has called this matter a ‘hoax’ several times.
In an interview to news site CNN, Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that the panel was still assessing the full geographical breakdown of the Russian ads and finding if any kind of aid was provided from individuals associated with the Trump campaign.
He said, “Obviously, we’re looking at any of the targeting of the ads, as well as any targeting of efforts to push out the fake or false news or negative accounts against Hillary Clinton, to see whether they demonstrate a sophistication that would be incompatible with not having access to data analytics from the campaign. At this point, we still don’t know.”