The Russian meddling in the US presidential elections is getting murkier day by day. One misleading ad found during the investigation was of a black woman dry firing a rifle and pulling the trigger without loading the weapon. It was understood to have foreign interference and was meant to instigate divisive politics in America.
According to a report by The Washington Post, the foreign meddling during the US presidential elections happened through misleading websites and social media pages. Recently, Facebook had pulled out 3,000 related ads. Meanwhile, 10 million users saw these ads. The social media giant confirmed the meddling.
Sources close to the investigation said that the targeting was done through the ‘Custom Audience’ tool in Facebook. The Russians had used the re-targeting tool to target those who had visited their Facebook campaigns and display ads previously. The targetting was done on religious and racist lines. Through this tool they created an audience list.
In fact, Jonathan Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University speaking to The Washington Post, said, that the websites and ads that the people were redirected to had ad-tracking cookies attached to it. This helped the advertiser to understand their audience.
From these cookies the audience information was filtered. Thus, further strengthening the audience list.
According to a previous report, Custom Audience is mostly used by small and medium enterprises. The purpose of this tool is to reach as many people as possible who will have interest in their business.
Custom Audience has some very geographically specific tools like the Lookalike Audience tool. In this businesses can target very specific people. Mostly, depending on their geographical location, interests, and age.
Thus, in a way every time a member of the audience clicks it to view it, the user becomes complicit in propagating the false news.