During the last presidential elections, a number of Russian-linked Facebook ads were targeted at Michigan and Wisconsin, sources say. The two states played a key role in Donald Trump’s victory over Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton. Some of the ads were specifically aimed at certain demographic groups which proved to be crucial in the election outcome.
The ads, CNN reports, contained anti-Muslim messages. A source said these messages were targeting voters who may be prone to Islamophobia and who supported Trump’s attitudes towards immigration.
It is yet not clear which areas of the country the ads were aimed at, though some of them were intended to affect public opinion in those regions which were the most heavily contested.
Both Michigan and Wisconsin were among the tightest states in the country where Trump won the election by an insignificant number of votes. The sources which revealed this information refused to say exactly when in the 2016 presidential elections the Russian-linked ads ran in these two states.
For now, it is being investigated whether Trump associates provided help to the Russians in terms of where to aim the ads. Officials from the White House did not want to comment, although they have claimed in the past that the story is nothing but a hoax and that there has never been any secret cooperation with the Russians.
However, Facebook admitted earlier that in 2016 Russian actors bought political ads which were targeted at certain geographic regions and were seen by almost 10 million people. It turned over 3000 ads to congressional investigators looking into the matter.
There is still the threat that such ads can be used for the 2018 Congressional elections.