During the 2016 US election, it was rumoured that Russia had purchased adverts across popular social media platforms, targeting specific demographics of people and injecting content subject to their sensitivities – immigration, terror threats from some nationalities, racial social issues, gun control etc. All of these with the perceived intent to sway voting opinion from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump.

On Tuesday 31st October 2017 – Executives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter testified at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on how to combat extremist content and Russian disinformation on their social media platforms.

Facebook told investigators that 80,000 posts and ads from Russian-backed accounts were seen by 126 million people on FB over a period of two years. (Facebook previously said that only 470 Russian-linked accounts spread 3,000 ads on FB, reaching 10 million people). Meanwhile, Twitter saw and took down 2,752 accounts connected to Russian firm, the Internet Research Agency (long believed to be supported by the Kremlin), which is substantially more than the 201 fraudulent accounts they reported finding initially last month. On 30th October 2017 – Google published a new set of findings from its investigation into Russian interference, confirming that Russian-backed accounts uploaded more than 1,000 videos to YouTube. We still don’t know how many viewers those videos had.

The question being asked is; did these ads swing the 2016 US election ?

The Internet Research Agency bought ads on Facebook between 2015 and 2017, with the assumed intent of stoking anger and partisanship. Its known that the ads concerned focused on issues like immigration, the Second Amendment, and police brutality; we even know what some of the Russian pages and accounts were. Its known that the 3,000 FB ads were purchased at a cost of around $100,000. Other platforms like Google and Outbrain are investigating Russian ad buys on their networks as well.

  • Total Voters = 138,884,643
  • Those Not Voting = 92,671,979
  • Total Eligible Voters = 231,556,622
  • Total Reach of Russian Backed Ads = ~130,000,000

The Election Results ?

  • Trump = 62,984,825 [306 Electoral Votes]
  • Clinton = 65,853,516 [232 Electoral Votes]

Do you think these ads had an impact on the 2016 US election results ? Do you have the feeling of being “followed” or “targeted” by online ads ? Let us know your thoughts on our channels Twitter / Facebook.