Ads for a fake Facebook group called LGBT United were some of the most popular placed by a Russian trolling operation in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee Thursday released thousands of ads that had run on the social media site between the middle of 2015 and August of last year. The Post combed through them to find the most popular ad unveiled each month. LGBT United had the most popular one in July 2015, August 2015, March 2016, and June 2016. The latter featured Rodney Sumter, who was wounded in that month’s mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.
Other groups with ads that rated as the month’s most popular four times were Blacktivist, aimed at African-Americans, and Brown Power, targeting Latinos. No group exceeded four most popular ratings. The popularity was measured by the number of clicks they received.
While these ads zeroed in on populations that tend to be liberal, others were aimed at conservatives, such as the anti-immigrant group Secured Borders, which had the most popular ad of the month three times.
An earlier analysis of the LGBT United and five other Russian-backed Facebook accounts found that they didn’t generally support or oppose a certain candidate but instead tried to make voters apathetic.
“A lot of these posts had the intent to get people not to vote,” Jonathan Albright, research director at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, who did the analysis, told the Post last year. “This is a concerted effort of manipulation. Based on the engagement and reach and the outcome of the election ... I’d say it’s been fairly successful, sadly.”