Washington: Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign reportedly sought to deter millions of African Americans from voting by targeting them with misleading advertisements on Facebook, according to an investigation broadcast Monday by Channel 4 News in London.
The investigation revealed that Trump’s 2016 digital team used data to separate voters into eight different “audiences” and target them with tailored advertisements. About 3.5 million Black voters were categorized as “Deterrence” — or voters who were not likely to vote for Trump and could potentially be deterred from voting at all.
Channel 4 alleged that the Trump campaign attempted to dissuade Black voters from backing Democrat Hillary Clinton by targeting them with advertisements that misstated her record on racial issues.
The Trump campaign dismissed the Channel 4 story. “This is fake news,” said Communications Director Tim Murtaugh. “President Trump has built a relationship of trust with African American voters.”
The news comes as Facebook already faces backlash for widespread misinformation and misleading advertisements on its platform.
Trump is faring badly with Black voters again in 2020, with single-digit support.
The cache of data on almost 200 million American voters obtained by Channel 4 showed that African Americans were disproportionately included in the “deterrence” category in 16 key battleground states, some of which Trump won by a small margin.
In Georgia, Black voters make up 32% of the population but accounted for 61% of the “deterrence” category. In North Carolina, Black voters made up 46% of that category, even though they are 22% of the state’s population, and in Wisconsin, where they constitute 5.4% of the population, 17% were labeled as “deterrence.”
More than half of the voters in the “deterrence” category were people of color, the investigation found.
In October 2016, Trump’s team began placing spots on select African American radio stations aimed at depressing Clinton’s vote total. The ads highlighted her 1996 comments about young Black men being “super predators.”
The campaign also targeted African American voters through Facebook “dark posts”– nonpublic posts whose viewership the campaign controls.-Bloomberg