Published: Wed, September 13, 2017
Industry | By Dora Warner

Russia Orchestrated Anti-Immigrant Rallies in the United States via Facebook Last Year

Russia Orchestrated Anti-Immigrant Rallies in the United States via Facebook Last Year

Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate approves resolution condemning white supremacist groups Week ahead: Lawmakers alarmed by Equifax breach Five major revelations from Congress's Russian Federation probes MORE (Va.) has repeatedly said he would like a hearing on the matter after Facebook revealed last week that a pro-Kremlin organization had bought $100,000 worth of political ads on its platform during the 2016 election.

Though much of the Russian Facebook propaganda campaign has since been deleted, The Daily Beast reported some remains via search engines of cached pages, including a 2016 notice on Facebook Events announcing an August 27 anti-Muslim refugee rally in rural Twin Falls, Idaho.

Facebook Events was reportedly used by Russian operatives to plan political rallies in the US. "We demand open and thorough investigation of all the cases regarding Muslim refugees!", it continued.

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The accounts, which were first reported Monday by the Daily Beast, created event pages with awkward English rhetoric. "All government officials, who are covering up for these criminals, should be fired!" read the description for the event, which has been removed. Though 48 people said they were "interested" in attending, only four said they went to City Council Chambers, according to the page, though that doesn't actually mean anyone showed up.

According to The Daily Beast, the rally was hosted by "SecuredBorders", which the outlet described an anti-immigration community that served as a Russian front. Democratic Senator Mark Warner told reporters last week that the laws surrounding digital ads should be more transparent.

The ads were sometimes politically themed and potentially reached tens of millions of Americans, raising questions about possible links to increasingly well-evidenced allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 elections-though the total spent ultimately paled in comparison to ad buys by Donald Trump's campaign, and could have ultimately been linked to some kind of marketing operation instead.

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Warner said that he has been frustrated by Facebook's limited disclosures on Kremlin-connected groups using the platform to influence the US political, noting that the company has only revealed a single "troll farm" involved, the Internet Research Group. "It is illegal for any foreign national to spend money to influence American voters as they participate in the process of democratic self-government", CLC President Trevor Potter wrote in the letter.

The company has turned over information about the ads to Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged Russian interference, a source has said.

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