Foreign Agents May Have Orchestrated 17 Pro-Trump Rallies in Florida

The “Being Patriotic” page, which posted pro-Trump and anti-Clinton memes, also promoted events in other cities and states, including a pro-Trump rally in Manhattan on September 11, 2016; “Miners for Trump” events in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in October 2016; and an anti-Clinton protest outside of her New York campaign headquarters in July 2016. Ultimately, the page shut down in August 2017, as Facebook was closing accounts associated with a Russian troll factory that had purchased $100,000 of ads from Facebook. It is believed that those ads had the potential to have reached 70 million Facebook users.

The latest revelations have turned into a major headache for Facebook, which is now under pressure on Capitol Hill to turn over more information about the apparent Russian propaganda campaign and to take steps to prevent being manipulated by foreign agents in the future. On Wednesday, Democratic leaders in Congress—including Senators Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken, and Cory Booker, sent a letter to the F.E.C. about the Facebook ads, asking the commission to consider new rules preventing foreign nationals from using online-advertising platforms like Facebook and Twitter to sway U.S. elections. “Social-media platforms offer the ability to target millions of users based upon a wealth of highly detailed information,” the group of Democratic leaders wrote in a letter to F.E.C. chairman Steven Walther. “As we have seen, the low cost of reaching these users equips hostile foreign actors with a powerful new tool for disruption of our democratic process. Therefore, it is incumbent that the Commission take immediate action to preserve the integrity of our election law and our elections.”

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