Russian Facebook pages may have organised pro-Trump rallies

Suspected Russian Facebook page Being Patriotic organised pro-Trump and anti-Clinton rallies in the build-up to the 2016 US election, The Daily Beast has found.

On 20 August 2016 — less than three months before the election in November — the page created a number of events collectively titled “Florida Goes Trump!” It called for supporters to rally together in 17 different cities and towns.

The position in Florida is crucial, as it is a swing state that could have reasonably been won by either party. US President Donald Trump won 49.1% of the vote in Florida, as opposed to Hillary Clinton’s 47.8%.

The Daily Beast found proof of only two of these rallies experiencing a turnout.

The online publication suspects Being Patriotic is Russian propaganda, because it was deactivated around the same time Facebook culled other propagandist sites last month.

The page also posted ads in a similar style to other pages which Facebook identified as being Russian propaganda, while the dormant domain was bought by a known Macedonian “fake news” distributor.

The suspected Russian Facebook page organised rallies in swing state Florida

Facebook could not comment on who controlled the sites, but did not deny that it was Russian-owned. The page has over 200 000 followers.

If true, this would represent the first case of a Russian page bringing supporters together in person.

Facebook announced last week that it could have earned US$150 000 from Russian propaganda during the election. The social media site has handed some ads over to special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is investigating the extent to which Russia interfered with the election.

According to The Daily Beast, US legislators have been frustrated with social media companies that have not provided sufficient disclosure to Congress.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied involvement.

Featured image: Elvert Barnes via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0, edited)



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