WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A new investigation reveals how the Trump campaign used Facebook ads to deter certain people from going to the poll in 2016, according to an investigation from Channel 4 News in the United Kingdom.
The news organization analyzed data on 200 million voters that it obtained from a source. In the database, millions of voters were marked ‘deterrence’ — which Channel 4 News says meant the campaign wanted them to stay home on Election Day.
The data shows how the Trump campaign used information about each voter to target them with specific digital ads.
In 16 key battleground states, millions of Americans were separated by an algorithm into one of eight categories, also described as ‘audiences’, so they could then be targeted with tailored ads on Facebook and other platforms.
One of the categories was named ‘Deterrence’, which was later described publicly by Trump’s chief data scientist as containing people that the campaign “hope don’t show up to vote”.
Analysis by Channel 4 News shows Black Americans – historically a community targeted with voter suppression tactics – were disproportionately marked ‘Deterrence’ by the 2016 campaign.
But Channel 4 News has uncovered evidence that the campaign did target Black voters with negative ads designed to crush Hillary Clinton’s turnout.
“This is NOT how you make our Democracy Great! Suppressing the vote is what we fought to rid the American political system of and to learn of this as a core strategy lets me know the intentions of @POTUS. I am disgusted,” tweeted Jamal Watkins, vice president of the NAACP.
According to Channel 4, the Trump campaign spent some $50 million on Facebook ads in 2016. It reports the campaign had 6 million versions of targeted messaging that went directly to voters. Many of the ads were “dark posts” which means they can’t publicly be tracked. In order to see the information on the ad buys, Facebook would have to release it.
“Since 2016, elections have changed and so has Facebook – what happened with Cambridge Analytica couldn’t happen today,” a Facebook spokesperson told Channel 4 News. “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.”
Cambridge Analytica is a British company that played a key role in Trump’s 2016 campaign. The company has since gone out of business.
Trump’s digital strategy has been credited with being a key component of his successful campaign strategy for president four years ago.
The Trump campaign did not provide a response to Channel 4 News’ investigation.