146 Million Americans Reached by Russia's Misinformation Campaign

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Over 1/3 of Americans exposed to a piece of Russia-linked misinformation propaganda.

According to a testimony presented by Facebook’s general counsel, Colin Stretch, at a hearing before the Senate last Wednesday, as many as 126 million Americans have seen material posted by a Russian-backed troll farm between 2015 and 2017.

This is  astounding for many reasons. First, this number represents  1/3 of the U.S. population. Second, it was previously reported that Facebook initially believed 10 million people saw Russia-linked ads aimed at misinforming and dividing American voters. Lastly, this number demonstrates  the amount of exposure and traffic that was being driven across  Facebook organically as well as through paid advertising. 

With Facebook’s recent admissions at these Capitol Hill hearings, it has come to light that even MORE Americans were reached—to the tune of 146 million!

According to U.S.A. Today earlier last week Facebook disclosed that 126 million Americans, a third of the U.S. population, may have been exposed to the Russian campaign. Posts on Instagram add another 20 million people, Facebook's general counsel Colin Stretch told lawmakers. 

Facebook, which owns the mobile app Instagram, stated that the 146 million people reached was thanks in part to users sharing, liking and forwarding the posts. Not every post was a paid ad, some went viral organically.

Now that we have evidence of the reach on Facebook, how do we use this knowledge for future campaigns and elections? At Red2Blue Political we analyzed how different candidates utilized social media in the 2016 election, achieved results and then compiled an evidence-based approach to optimizing Facebook’s platform to get the maximum results from organic posts and paid ads.

The big secret here is it is all about content and messaging! That’s right, content and messaging are king in this game. If we can learn anything from what Russia did in its efforts, it’s that they leveraged content and messaging to reach audiences that covered ⅓ of the U.S. population. And not just any content, but polarizing messages designed to create discord that spanned party lines and political ideologies. They did this by having users share and spread content to gain the maximum exposure on their propaganda, thereby exploiting the fundamental purpose and mission of a social platform like Facebook: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” How ironic!

On Facebook you can pay as much money as you want to serve an ad to whatever audience you want as long as you can map it out. But, to get the best ROI you want to get the most reach as possible for the least amount of money. This was leveraged heavily by the Russians in the type of content they employed. Knowing Facebook is a platform built on sharing, many of the posts that went viral centered on content that included eye-catching pictures, video, blog posts and memes. That is right, a political meme getting tens of thousands of likes and shares and serving hundreds of thousands of impressions in people’s news feeds on Facebook. This is where the "messaging" part becomes important-every piece of content played on sentiments of divisiveness and often fear mongering to get the most response from all political sides and parties. Yes, the misinformation coming out of Russia was not just aimed at one group or side. Here are some examples of Russian linked Facebook posts:

 

Now these examples are on the national level and span across the entire United States, but this approach is easily scalable to any audience and any voting district. At Red2Blue we have identified key strategies that any candidate or campaign can implement across all social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc).  We have created a blueprint for winning that leverages these strategies on social media in addition to other outlets of digital advertising. We are seeing unparalleled results when these approaches are combined with traditional political strategies.

While other actors will continue to try and misinform and divide us, we now have the knowledge and ability to counteract that by providing facts, correct information, stats, etc to constituents and anyone on Social Media and the rest of the Internet.

Red2Blue utilizes proprietary technology to give campaigns a competitive advantage over other candidates and other digital strategy approaches. Red2Blue’s evidence-based process and cutting-edge technology provide the same tools as the most well-financed national campaigns but for any progressive candidate with any sized campaign. Red2Blue is focused on providing all campaigns with a blueprint to winning; whether that is fundraising or GOTV efforts. Because the political environment is always changing we must too, Red2Blue is constantly adapting and positioning itself to best serve the candidates need while still delivering the best results and a winning strategy.

Let’s start winning again…