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If a Sketchy Russian Ad Network Promotes a Facebook Event, Will Anyone Show Up?

Photo: AP

Last week, news broke a network of fake Russian trolls bought at least
$100,000 in ads
from Facebook between June 2015 and May 2017. The ads were sometimes politically themed and potentially reached 
tens of millions
of Americans, raising questions about possible links to
increasingly well-evidenced
allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 elections-though the total spent ultimately
paled in comparison
to ad buys by Donald Trump’s campaign, and could have ultimately been linked to
some kind of marketing operation
instead.

Here’s something a little more tangible,
per the Daily Beast
. Apparently, a known Russian front company managed to use “Facebook’s event management tool to remotely organize and promote political protests in the U.S., including an August 2016 anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rally in Idaho,” which were promoted using ads paid for by the same network of fake accounts.

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According to the Beast, Facebook confirmed the events were taken down in the same purge of the $100,000 ad buy network last week. The Idaho rally originally appeared as sponsored by “SecuredBorders,” the same front
allegedly responsible
for an eclipse-themed meme of Donald Trump the president actually tweeted.

SecureBorders is linked to the
Internet Research Agency
, a strange St. Petersburg venture with ties to both Vladimir Putin and private interests.

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But if this was an attempt to actually translate influence into a change in the behavior of US voters, the event does not seem to have been very successful. One
cached Facebook event
which appears to be the same one flagged by the Beast had just 48 interested attendees, with only four marked as “went,” a category that does not necessarily denote a physical presence at the rally.

Image: Screengrab via
Google Cache

Without more details, a lot of this is inherently speculative-one could interpret this as a test for some kind of government op, or perhaps an attempt by the troll farm to pretend it had a real-life presence while it was hawking merchandise or linking slack-jawed US yokels to profit-generating malware. But whatever was going on with this specific event, it seems to have been a very curious use of someone’s dollars, or rubles, or whatever.

[
The Daily Beast
]