The Corner

Politics & Policy

What the Heck Were the Russians Doing on Social Media?

Back in November, the House Intelligence Committee released a selection of the ads Russia promoted on Facebook as part of its alleged attempt to meddle with the 2016 presidential election. What is strangest about the portfolio as a whole is not the material itself, but how many demographics it targeted. It became clear that the Facebook ad campaign not only fails to prove that Russians were single-mindedly focused on promoting Trump in 2016, but raises serious questions about what exactly the Russians were hoping to accomplish, if anything.

Adding to the confusion is a little-noticed statement from Senator Richard Burr (R., N.C.), reported by the Washington Post in a December 28 update on the status of the investigation. Burr reveals that Democratic strongholds such as Maryland and Washington, D.C., were targeted significantly more than swing states such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania; more of the geographically targeted ads ran in 2015 than 2016; ad spending in Wisconsin totaled just $44 during the general election, against $1,925 during the primary; and Pennsylvania’s ad spending totaled $300.

Either the Russians lack a working knowledge of the American electoral process or they were just meddling for the sake of meddling. Whichever the case, it’s absurd to think this had any significant effect on the election’s outcome.

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