There was evidence of Russians targeting Black voters on social media to deter them from voting during the 2016 presidential election. Now it seems Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign was actively doing the same thing.
According to a Channel 4 News exclusive, 3.5 million Black Americans were categorized by Trump’s campaign as “deterrence”– voters they wanted to stay home on election day.
Channel 4 obtained a vast cache of data used by Trump’s presidential campaign on almost 200 million American voters as a way to select certain targets.
“In 16 key battleground states, millions of Americans were separated by an algorithm into one of eight categories, also described as ‘audiences,’ so they could then be targeted with tailored ads on Facebook and other platforms,” Channel 4 News reported.
The “deter” category was later described publicly by Trump’s chief data scientist as containing people that the campaign “hope don’t show up to vote.”
The “deterrence” project contains details on almost 200 million Americans, among more than 5,000 files, which together amass almost 5 terabytes of data. By Channel 4 News obtaining the data, it is now one of the biggest leaks in history. It is also very revealing.
Civil rights activists say the evidence amounts to a new form of “voter suppression” and they called on Facebook to disclose ads and targeting information that the social media giant has never made public.
In all, 3.5 million Black Americans were marked “deterrence.”
For example, in Georgia, where Black people constitute 32 percent of the population, they comprised 61 percent of the “deterrence” category. In Wisconsin, Black people are just 5.4 percent of the population but 17 percent of the “deterrence” category.
Trump’s 2016 digital campaign, “Project Alamo,” was based in San Antonio, Texas and involved a team from the now-defunct British company Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica folded after its involvement in the 2016 elections was investigated by Channel 4 News, The Observer, and the New York Times in 2018.
Two former senior members of the Cambridge Analytica team are working on the Trump 2020 campaign.
A British TV program, Channel 4 News discovered evidence that the 2016 Trump campaign definitely targeted Black voters with negative ads designed to decrease Hillary Clinton’s turnout.
“These included videos featuring Hillary Clinton referring to Black youths as ‘super predators’ which aired on TV 402 times in October 2016 and received millions of views on Facebook,” Channel 4 News reported.
“The thing that’s shocking slash troubling about this is that there’s this category of suppression. That deterrence part,” said Jamal Watkins, vice president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). “So, we use data – similar to voter file data – but it’s to motivate, persuade and encourage folks to participate. We don’t use the data to say who can we deter and keep at home. That just seems, fundamentally, it’s a shift from the notion of democracy.”
Watkins added, “It’s not ‘may the best candidate win’ at that point. It’s ‘may the best well-funded machine suppress voters and keep them at home thereby rigging the election so that someone can win.’”
Ben Jealous, president of People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation and former CEO of the NAACP, weighed in on the issue of efforts to deter Black voters in an article for Precinct Reporter.
“Black voters are still targeted by old-school voter suppression strategies like restricting registration, closing polling stations and limiting early voting,” Jealous wrote. “On top of all that, we are now top targets in ‘information warfare’ campaigns designed to drive down Black turnout by any means possible.”
According to Jealous, past voter tampering and efforts to deter Black voters should be used to make voters more aware and to be cautious.
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 73: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin makes the case for why this is a multi-factor rebellion vs. just protests about George Floyd. He discusses the Democratic Party’s sneaky relationship with the police in cities and states under Dem control, and why Joe Biden is a cop and the Steve Jobs of mass incarceration.
“We cannot let ourselves get played. We need to get good information about where and how to vote from our state election officials or trusted resources,” Jealous wrote. “Make a plan to vote and do it as soon as possible. Black people have overcome efforts to stop us from voting for more than 150 years since the Civil War. We won’t stop now.”