How Trump’s 2016 Campaign Used Facebook to Target and Deter 3.5 Million Black Voters: Report

Illustration for article titled How Trump’s 2016 Campaign Used Facebook to Target and Deter 3.5 Million Black Voters: Report
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Trump’s 2016 campaign used every trick possible to steal the election. When he wasn’t using Russian interference in the actual election, his campaign targeted some 3.5 million Black voters and tried to suppress their vote.


According to British news outlet Channel 4, Trump’s campaign compiled data of some 200 million voters and then divided them into eight different groups. One category was named “Deterrence” and had some 3.5 million Black voters.

From Salon:

The leak shows that the campaign disproportionately targeted Black voters in its “deterrence” strategy aimed at lowering voter turnout among likely supporters of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. More than 60% of people on the list in Georgia were Black, for example, even though Black people are around one-third of the state population. Black people made up 46% of the “Deterrence” list in North Carolina even though they make up just 22% of the population. In Wisconsin, Black voters made up 17% of the “Deterrence” list, even though just 5.4% of the state’s population is Black.

In all, about 54% of the people on the “Deterrence” list were people of color, according to Channel 4. Other categories of voters that the campaign sought to turn out were “overwhelmingly white.”

The people on the list were described publicly by Trump’s top data scientists as people the campaign hoped “don’t show up to vote.” The campaign worked with the controversial British data firm Cambridge Analytica, now defunct, to compile the data, which was used to target certain Facebook ads to voters. Voters on the “Deterrence” list were targeted with negative ads attacking Hillary Clinton.

And that isn’t all, Trump’s campaign spent some $44 million on Facebook ads, almost $20 million more than Clinton, and his voter targeting with social media has been noted as one of the key reasons for his Electoral College victory, which, Salon notes, “rested on narrow wins in a few states where Democratic turnout was down.”

According to the news exposé, the Trump campaign pushed out some six million versions of “highly targeted messages” that, with the help of an insurgent at Facebook, targeted specific voters. Some of the ads were “dark posts,” which aired and then disappeared from users’ feeds.

The Trump campaign has denied targeting Black voters and Brad Parscale, who may or may not be on an involuntary psychiatric hold and ran Trump’s digital operations in 2016, told PBS with “100%” certainty that the campaign “did not run any campaigns that targeted even African Americans.”

But that, like everything involved with Trump’s campaign, is bullshit. According to the investigation, those on the “Deterrence” list were targeted with anti-Clinton ads especially focusing on her 1990s comments about young Black men being “super predators,” which was later viewed as the impetus for the assault on young Black men and mass incarceration.


“Cambridge Analytica acknowledged in a document obtained by the outlet that the video targeted African Americans,” Salon reports.

“The thing that’s shocking-slash-troubling about this is that there’s this category of suppression,” Jamal Watkins, the vice president of the NAACP, told Channel 4. “That ‘Deterrence’ part. So, we use data — similar to voter file data — but it’s to motivate, persuade and encourage folks to participate. We don’t use the data to say who can we deter and keep at home. That just seems — fundamentally, it’s a shift from the notion of democracy.”


Facebook, which doesn’t give AF how its platform is used, has not “fully disclosed their role” in the ad campaign and has called on a crackdown of “suppressive ads.”

“Since 2016, elections have changed and so has Facebook — what happened with Cambridge Analytica couldn’t happen today,” a Facebook spokesperson told Channel 4. “We have 35,000 people working to ensure the integrity of our platform, created a political ads library … and have protected more than 200 elections worldwide. We also have rules prohibiting voter suppression and are running the largest voter information campaign in American history.”


And despite Trump losing the Black vote by more than 80 points, Clinton lost several states, most notably Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, states that Democrats had previously carried for decades.

“It’s not ‘may the best candidate win’ at that point, it’s ‘may the best well-funded machine suppress voters and keep them at home, thereby rigging the election so that someone can win,’” Watkins added.

Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.



I hate Donald Trump, but running ads that tell people what your opponent did is not “suppressing the vote” by any definition — even a bad one.

For an actual example of GOP voter suppression, look at how the GOP dilutes the power of black voters through things like majority-minority districts (a well-intentioned plan that, like anything, can be manipulated to be detrimental).

When I worked for the GOP, the amount of data we used for drawing maps for redistricting was almost mindboggling. We had such precise tools to apportion voters and one of the easiest and most employed strategies was what I described above. It was easy to split streets and even houses individually to ensure that politicians picked the voters they wanted instead of the inverse. As an extra bonus, sometimes you can put two of your more successful legislative opponents in a new district that overlaps the other and they have to fight it out or move.

When I resigned in protest I foolishly signed several NDAs that I really should see if are still binding considering several of my superiors at the time have now been arrested by Feds, etc. for various political crimes.