Russia reportedly organized pro-Trump rallies on Facebook

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

More and more details have been coming out about how Russia used Facebook to spread pro-Trump propaganda during the 2016 US election, and today The Daily Beast has published evidence that appears to show a Putin-linked Facebook group organizing rallies that Trump supporters in the US actually attended.

The Daily Beast identified a Facebook group called “Being Patriotic” that was shut down around the same time that other Russian-linked Facebook accounts were purged. The page also posted memes watermarked and framed in a similar style as those other pages, according to the report, which suggests the page came from the same source. It’s not a perfect link, but it strongly implies Being Patriotic was among the Russian propaganda pages; Facebook told The Daily Beast that it could not confirm the details.

Along with posting memes, the Being Patriotic page also tried to organize four rallies, according to the report. One of those was supposed to be a “patriotic state-wide flash mob” occurring simultaneously in 17 cities across Florida in support of Trump. The Daily Beast says it found evidence that at least two of those rallies materialized — Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs — and were documented on Facebook by the local campaign chair for Trump.

The Being Patriotic account reportedly had over 200,000 followers at the time it was shut down, and had tried to organize other pro-Trump or anti-Hillary events in New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. A related Twitter account also posted at least one comment promoting violence against Black Lives Matters supporters.

The Daily Beast suggests the Being Patriotic account came from the Internet Research Agency, a Russian group that US intelligence has identified as “professional trolls” funded by a “close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence.”

While this isn’t the first Facebook account that’s been publicly tied to Russian propagandists, this appears to be the first time we’re seeing Russian efforts to organize Trump supporters for physical demonstrations. That it ultimately worked, to at least some extent, shows that the propaganda campaign had real and tangible effects beyond the spread of memes.

Facebook said earlier this month that it had found evidence of Russians buying political ads during the campaign, spending $100,000 under fake accounts. That’s not a huge amount of money for Facebook, but it’s clear their work led to some results.

The Trump campaign is certainly aware of how effective targeted Facebook posts can be. BuzzFeed reported today that the president’s and vice president’s Facebook pages are paying for ads that are only visible to groups of users — likely their own supporters — that they choose to target. The ads are asking for donations.


Countries part of the new USSR aka Russian Republic – (East Russia) Russia & (West Russia) United States of America

Didn’t the Hillary camp have groups go to Trump rally’s and act out with violent acts? The whole election was embarrassing for our nation. I voted for Clinton, lesser of two evils, but still upset we didn’t get Bernie.

Did you hear that reported from a legitimate news organization or from Trump’s mouth?

Legitimate news organisation. Good one.

I you had read up on Project Veritas and James O’Keefe you would know he is not a very trustworthy source and is also a terrible human being. He almost brought down ACORN, a non-profit organisation that helps minorities and low income people, by spreading very misleading nonsense about them. He later settled a case about this for $10,000. He also got funded by the Trump Campaign before all of this came out. It seems obvious that all of this is also a bit of a set-up.

Same here. I wish we had got Bernie. Clinton is evil, Trump is just horrible.

Both are bad choices but Trump is also evil.

trolls leading the sheep

The US actively does this via its many state department supported NGOs and media organizations in other countries. Others countries do it too on a smaller scale. How is this news? What will be the next breaking news – that the CIA is a spy organization and so is the KGB?

The US actively does this via its many state department supported NGOs and media organizations in other countries. Others countries do it too on a smaller scale. How is this news? What will be the next breaking news – that the CIA is a spy organization and so is the KGB?

You’re totally right. Everyone does this! That’s why I don’t understand all this hysteria and panic over North Korea threatening to drop bombs. The United States dropped a nuke on Japan, so what’s the big deal if North Korea drops a nuke on Japan, South Korea or the United States? The US did it. Why can’t North Korea?

Same thing like what you said. The US has engaged in covert operations that wound up destabilizing entire regions and inflaming tensions that led to things like global terrorism. What’s the big deal if Russia does the same? Let Russia destabilize Europe and North America inflaming tensions that might lead to terrorism or even worse. What’s all this fuss about?

Yes everyone does it. But that does not mean it shouldn’t be called out. And it’s news in the US because it doesn’t usually happen here. You act like it happens here every day.

Let us just say that Russia did involve itself in the election. Why is that out of the norm? Obama went to France and openly campaigned for Macron. US newspapers and US people wrote all over Facebook and the internet about being for and against Brexit. Germany’s leaders were very open about opposing Brexit and trying to influence the vote.
The US has openly and /or secretly involved itself in elections and regime change all over the world.
To stop "foreign influence" would mean to stop The London Times, German Spiegle and all foreign news media from being seen in the US as the election cycle is now endless.
In the end, the voter sees a huge variety of information with slants and origens of all types.
The voter then votes. Nothing new here.

I think one way they differ were that those were out in the open. Obama himself did that in the public. Merkel herself opposed that in the public. The US stupidly did a [many] regime change but it was out in the open. They did not organize shadow agents to launch campaigns to steer foreign public attitude in a certain direction. I’m sort of with you on the regime change one but the others, not quite so much. This was done manipulatively and under the radar to influence and destabilize current and future democratic elections in Western societies.

Out in the open? What the CIA did in Chile wasn’t open. It was destabilization and coup. We propped up the Shah of Iran. We also had the Iran-Contra Affair where we sold weapons to Iran to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. I love this country but we have done much more than some silly social media buys.

Indeed. No industrialized nation has interfered in foreign elections more than we have, and it isn’t even close. We have accounted for about 70% of all the "meddling" over the past 100 years or so, and when we meddle propaganda is the least of our tools…we usually support coup efforts and / or assassinate duly elected leaders. Yes, if Russia interfered that’s not a good thing, but their efforts are pittance compared to our track record, so let’s have some perspective.

I agree with you. We should stop calling out Russia. Since the US has engaged in covert operations in the past, we should allow Russia to run whole hog right now, destabilize Europe and North America, and destroy Western democracy as we know it. I also think we should give North Korea a free pass and let it nuke Japan, since we nuked Japan, too. Every rogue nation should be allowed a free pass now to do whatever it wants.

Makes sense to me.

Thanks for entirely missing my point. We cannot and should not tolerate foreign governments interfering with elections…but WE, NYC Babe, are the #1 rogue nation on the planet, bar none. We have violated UN charters more than any other nation, multifold. We should do what we can to put a stop to ALL covert ops that undermine legitimate democracies around the world…and to effectively do so we must look in the mirror and take account of our own sins first. Otherwise the rest of the world will follow our lead as a matter of self-preservation, including Russia of course.

Thanks for entirely missing my point.

No. Thank you for exposing yourself as a gullible person who bought the "but America did it, too" meme that was dreamed up and planted by Russian trolls paid by the Kremlin to deflect criticism against what Russia is doing.

It’s amazing to me how Americans, who are supposed to be the smartest people in the world, have successfully been snookered into parroting memes planted by Russian trolls. Amazing. I really have to hand it to Putin. Getting trolls to pose as American and post these memes to snooker real Americans worked like a charm:

Now millions of people like you post Kremlin-created propaganda with the confidence of believing that it’s all "self-evident", when all you did was pick up memes that Russian posters posing as Americans posted.

Bravo, Putin! Job well done!

Riiiight. I’m influenced by Kremlin-created propaganda, like…

The LA Times
"The U.S. is no stranger to interfering in the elections of other countries"

"Database Tracks History Of U.S. Meddling In Foreign Elections"

The Washington Post
"The long history of the U.S. interfering with elections elsewhere"

The Huffington Post
"The U.S. Has Been Meddling In Other Countries’ Elections For A Century. It Doesn’t Feel Good."

The Guardian
"Americans can spot election meddling because they’ve been doing it for years"

The Boston Globe
"We’ve been hacking elections for more than a century"

All Russian propaganda, right NYC Babe?

And let’s not forget that most nefarious Commie rag…Business Insider:

"Moscow didn’t do anything in America’s last election that Washington hasn’t done elsewhere in the world"

Curious…posts a bunch of articles parroting the "US did it too" meme as proof that there was no meme planted. But isn’t suspicious that the articles not only mirror each other exactly but don’t predate 2016 at all. In fact, two of them were posted a day apart.

Hmm…it’s almost as if journalists also were writing these articles based on an idea that didn’t exist until the 2016 election campaign…But where did this idea even come from…hmmm…

Wow. You know, NYC Babe, I think you could give Alex Jones a run for his money in the loony bin conspiracy theory department.

And so has Russia to this country. I get that we secretly screw up other countries but why would it not be news that someone else is doing it to us?

Of course it’s news…but the way it is being framed is that Russia is this lurking anti-democratic hostile rogue nation with the singular goal of bringing down all wholesome western democracies, including and especially that purest of pure shining castle on the hill: America. And that is simply a BS spin on the facts…which are that WE have been the #1 rogue nation on the planet for nearly 100 years, undermining democracy after democracy for our own "national interests," and what Russia is doing (apparently) is playing be rules that we established.

So, you wanna fix the problem of foreign meddling into legit democracies? You fix this problem the way you fix ALL problems: start with a basic understanding of the facts, and that means we need to look squarely in the mirror and take ownership of our substantial role in establishing the ground rules for how foreign powers conduct business, and how they interact with both their allies and their adversaries. Putin isn’t the big bad boogie man in this scenario, we are. Once we can say "ok, yeah, we do this too…and far worse than everyone" we can begin to craft a genuine diplomatic solution. If we don’t, what motivation is there for Putin, or any other nation, to stop playing by our rules, if we refuse to change our rogue behavior? In other words, why should they disarm if we refuse to do so?

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