Reports indicate that the Russian government targeted LGBT Americans leading up to the 2016 presidential election with paid promotional campaigns on Facebook.
The government allegedly created and paid to promote more than 450 Facebook pages, including “Blacktivists,” “United Muslims of America,” “Being Patriotic,” and “Heart of Texas,” reports The Washington Post. Among the fake pages was “LGBT United,” which claimed to provide a voice for “all fellow members of the LGBT community across the nation.”
“Gender preference does not define you,” the ads read. “Your spirit defines you.”
LGBT Unitedreceived some 5.2 million shares from unknowing Facebook users. The most popular fake page, “Blacktivists,” received more than 100 million.
All of the Russian-operated pages identified so far have been shut down, says Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s Vice President of Policy and Communications. Schrage insists the company was unaware that any of the pages were in any way affiliated with the Russian government.
Facebook says its shared all the details about the pages and paid promotions with Congress and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible links between the Russian government and the Trump administration.
“Given the sensitive national security and privacy issues involved in this extraordinary investigation, we think Congress is best placed to use the information we and others provide to inform the public comprehensively and completely,” Schrage wrote in a statement.
The purported fake ads are just one part of a larger growing scandal involving Russian officials’ influence in shaping American public discourse during the 2016 presidential election cycle.