UK media reported earlier this month that a digital marketing firm closely linked to the pro-Trump youth group created a series of deceptive ads falsely attributed to a leftwing group and apparently aimed at splitting the Democratic vote in close races. According to the Guardian report, Facebook was aware of the true identity of the advertiser:
June 11, 20212 A digital marketing firm closely linked to the pro-Trump youth group Turning Point USA was responsible for a series of deceptive Facebook ads promoting Green party candidates during the 2018 US midterm elections, the Guardian can reveal. In an apparent attempt to split the Democratic vote in a number of close races, the ads purported to come from an organization called America Progress Now (APN) and used socialist memes and rhetoric to urge leftwing voters to support Green party candidates. Facebook was aware of the true identity of the advertiser – the conservative marketing firm Rally Forge – and the deceptive nature of the ads, documents seen by the Guardian show, but the company determined that they did not violate its policies. Rally Forge would go on to set up a pro-Trump domestic “troll farm” for Turning Point Action, a “sister” organization of Turning Point USA, in 2020, earning a permanent ban from Facebook.“There were no policies at Facebook against pretending to be a group that did not exist, an abuse vector that has also been used by the governments of Honduras and Azerbaijan,” said Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook employee and whistleblower who played a small role in the investigation of the Green party ads. She added: “The fact that Rally Forge later went on to conduct coordinated inauthentic behavior with troll farms reminiscent of Russia should be taken as an indication that Facebook’s leniency led to more risk-taking behavior.”
Read the rest here.
Recent Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reporting on US Republican Party-related influence operations has included:
- A report this week about a new anti “Critical Race Theory” group headed by a Republican operative.
- A May report on how US Republican false claims about a stolen election originated with a Texas businessman and his associates.
- An April report on how what were described as “political smears” helped to win four California Congressional seats for Republicans.