Russian-funded Facebook ads purchased during the 2016 presidential election promoted Green Party candidate Jill Stein as well as then-candidate Donald Trump and Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders, said Politico on Wednesday.
“Other advertisements paid for by shadowy Russian buyers criticized Hillary Clinton and promoted Donald Trump. Some backed Bernie Sanders and his platform even after his presidential campaign had ended, according to a person with knowledge of the ads,” wrote Politico’s Josh Dawsey.
Dawsey reported that the Stein ad he saw was placed late in the campaign and played upon some liberals’ belief that Clinton is too hawkish and would lead the U.S. into war with Iran.
“Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein,” said the ad. “Trust me. It’s not a wasted vote. … The only way to take our country back is to stop voting for the corporations and banks that own us. #GrowaSpineVoteJillStein.”
Stein was one of the guests — along with disgraced former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn — at a 2015 Russia Today gala in Moscow, which has caused some like CNN’s Michael Smerconish to question whether she worked with Russia to sway the election away from Clinton.
However, there is currently no evidence that Stein, Sanders or Trump knew about the ads or played any role in producing and promoting them.
The Russian ad buys were only reluctantly revealed by Facebook after months of denials and dismissals of the idea that hostile foreign governments could manipulate social media to sway voters’ opinions.
Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election wiped out those denials when it issued warrants to the social media platform demanding information. Some observers called the warrants the biggest news in the investigation since the pre-dawn raid on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s house in late July.
The ads show a multi-pronged approach by Russian operatives, who sought to sow division among U.S. voters and hinder the Clinton campaign. Other Russian attempts to sway the election include hack attacks on state voting systems and remote organization of anti-Muslim and pro-Trump political rallies.