Facebook’s possible role in Black voter ‘deterrence’ raised after Trump campaign leak

The 2016 Trump presidential campaign identified millions of Black Americans in an apparent attempt to deter them from going to the polls — and Facebook may have played a critical role. 

That’s according to Channel 4 News, which obtained the campaign’s voter database on 200 million Americans. Notably, 3.5 million Black Americans were categorized as “Deterrence” — a category the Trump campaign reportedly described as “hope don’t show up to vote.” The question, of course, is did the Trump campaign pay Facebook to run ads targeting this voter block in an effort to keep it home on election day?

Unfortunately, at present, we don’t know the answer. Facebook’s failure to release the relevant data from the Trump team’s advertising campaign makes it almost impossible to know. Facebook could likely prove it was not used in this way by the Trump campaign if it wanted to. 

We reached out to Facebook in an attempt to determine if the Trump campaign specifically targeted Black Americans on the social media platform with ads designed to discourage voter turnout. We received no immediate response. 

Facebook did previously allow advertisers to target based on “ethnic affinity,” but partially — only partially — discontinued the practice in (you guessed it) November of 2016. In August of this year, Facebook stopped allowing advertisers to target users based on their “multicultural affinity.” One of the removed targeting options was “African American Affinity.”

Notably, Facebook did respond to Channel 4 News, though its response did not directly answer the key question. Instead, the response published by Channel 4 News focused on Facebook’s policies today, and not what they were in 2016. 

“We have 35,000 people working to ensure the integrity of our platform, created a political ads  library… and have protected more than 200 elections worldwide,” read the statement, in part, to Channel 4 News. “We also have rules prohibiting voter suppression and are running the largest voter information campaign in American history.”

The Trump campaign spent around $70 million on Facebook ads over the course of the 2016 election. We can’t easily see what those ads were in totality, as Facebook only launched its political ads archive in 2018. 

SEE ALSO: Facebook engineer quits, says company is ‘profiting off hate’

It would not be out of character for a Republican political campaign to attempt to deter Black Americans from voting. There is a long history of that very thing. The question today, however, is was Facebook used by the Trump administration to supercharge a voter deterrence effort aimed at Black people?

Facebook’s present day failure to address the matter head on suggests a troubling answer.  

source.

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