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Facebook ad promoting 2016 Lawrence protest among those paid for by Russian trolls

This partially redacted screenshot, provided Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, by the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, shows a Facebook ad for a counter-protest in Lawrence against Westboro Baptist Church. The ad was one of the 3,000 purchased by Russian operatives during the 2016 elections.

Just about every year, the Westboro Baptist Church shows up to protest graduation ceremonies at Lawrence and Free State high schools.

That’s not news to anyone familiar with the hate group’s tactics. What makes Westboro’s protest at the 2016 LHS commencement ceremony newsworthy more than a year later is the revelation Wednesday that Russian trolls organized the counter-protest and publicized it to thousands of Kansas Facebook users.

The counter-protest ad was among a sampling — released Wednesday by the U.S. House Intelligence Committee — of the 3,000 purchased by Russian operatives during the 2016 elections. Their motive, experts say, was stirring up division in an already ugly and emotion-fueled election cycle.

This partially redacted screenshot, provided Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, by the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, shows a Facebook ad for a counter-protest in Lawrence against Westboro Baptist Church. The ad was one of the 3,000 purchased by Russian operatives during the 2016 elections.

This partially redacted screenshot, provided Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, by the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, shows a Facebook ad for a counter-protest in Lawrence against Westboro Baptist Church. The ad was one of the 3,000 purchased by Russian operatives during the 2016 elections.

In the case of the Westboro counter-protest, a group called LGBT United was created seemingly for the sole purpose of advertising the event on social media. The event page has since been removed, but a snapshot makes clear the message Russian operatives were trying to spread:

"Westboro baptist church is planning to stand against tolerance in education system near LGBT-friendly Lawrence High School on Wednesday, May 25 ( 1901 Louisiana St, Lawrence, KS 66046). They want to 'remind this nation that the parents, students, teachers and high school staff celebrate disobedience to God's law.' They are just inciting hate riots and violence! What a bunch of bigots! All they do is spread hate and homophobia! ... Let`s protest against these idiots and completely piss off WBC because #GodH8sBigots!"

More on Russia's tactics

Not all of Russia's activity was intended to intervene in the election, said Salve Regina University professor James Ludes, who has written on Russia's influence on the United States.

The ads on divisive issues such as race and gun ownership — or even organizing opposing rallies across the street from each other — are meant to "attack political cohesion" and make Americans turn against one another, he said.

"It's not intended to benefit once candidate or another per se, but raise political temperature," Ludes said. "Make us feel like we are coming apart at the seams."

— The Associated Press

Related story:Newly disclosed Facebook ads show Russia’s cyber intrusion

It’s not clear how many people showed up to the counter-protest, though photos shared on Facebook at the time (by a self-described Tonganoxie resident) indicate at least a dozen counter-protesters participated, with colorful signs in tow.

(The Westboro Baptist Church representatives apparently had shown up at the high school that evening despite the LHS graduation ceremony being moved to Allen Fieldhouse due to inclement weather.)

Lindsay Buck remembers her students being skeptical of the counter-protest at the time.

Buck, who chairs the LHS special education department and sponsors the school’s Total Equality Alliance, said her TEA club students discussed the dubious Facebook event during a meeting that spring. To her knowledge, the students didn’t participate in the counter-protest because, even back then, it had seemed “a little sketchy.”

Buck said she’d even received an email from someone who identified themselves as “Jack K. Adams” from LGBT United. The organizer’s seeming obliviousness to the ubiquity of Westboro's protests across the state made Buck skeptical, she said.

But she had “no idea” that she and her students, along with more than 11 million other Facebook users across the country, had been targeted by a troll farm with ties to the Russian government.

“That’s scary, actually,” Buck said Wednesday afternoon, shortly after Congress released the handful of Facebook ads.

Buck said she planned to discuss the news with her students this week.

“Honestly, that would be good to talk to the kids about, too,” she said of sifting through questionable sources. “…I’m glad that at the time students questioned it and researched it.”

Metadata shows the “God H8s Bigots” anti-Westboro rally ad cost Russian operatives more than 3,000 rubles, or roughly $50, to place on Facebook, where it generated nearly 4,800 impressions. The ad targeted Kansans from age 14 to 65-plus, specifically those whose interests included LGBT rights, the LGBT community, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

LGBT United, the group behind the Westboro counter-protest, also purchased an ad promoting a pro-Bernie Sanders coloring book called “Buff Bernie: A Coloring Book for Berniacs.” The ad describes the book as “full of very attractive doodles of Bernie Sanders in muscle poses.”

Comments

Steve Jacob

Does not surprise me. The Facebook algorithms are a work of genius and that anyone can take advantage from for a fee. We gave Russia the tools to interfere with our elections and should be sanctioned..

3 weeks ago

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Bob Summers

Russians colluding with Liberals.

Imagine that.

3 weeks ago

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Nathan Anderson

Congrats on doing the bidding of the Russian government. They were/are using Facebook's algorithm to stir up sh** on both sides.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphi...

3 weeks ago

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Jillian Andrews

Bob doesn't read the articles. He just shoots his mouth off with any pathetic "liberal" demonizing he can come up with...regardless of the truth. Sad, sad old man.

3 weeks ago

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Steve Jacob

Russia does what helps them, they do not take sides. Sure in more conservative areas in the country they organized events like protesting gay pride events.

3 weeks ago

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Daniel Kennamore

Well that gives the theory of the Bobs being Russian paid trolls a lot more credence, now doesn't it?

3 weeks ago

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Jillian Andrews

Bob IS a Russian Troll.

3 weeks ago

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Ray Mizumura

Even they wouldn't stoop so low as to recruit him.

2 weeks, 5 days ago

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed

Looks like your friends in Russia, Bob, are equal opportunity fake news. But a lot of the example I've seen so far would have raised my suspicions, like Black matters? Of course on social media I know some people who repost and repost, without checking out the validity first. Right now, I am sick of the Russians, even if they tell me they don't like Putin. I also don't like Americans who admire Putin, if you catch my drift.

3 weeks ago

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Michael Kort

Gee.....they say that Russia Trolls are posting here in America to stir up controversy, pit one group against the other and create distrust of our elected government .

Gosh,......and i thought that all of that was Donald Trump's job ? !

3 weeks ago

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Bob Smith

"....they say that Russia Trolls are posting here in America to stir up controversy, pit one group against the other and create distrust of our elected government..." That's been job 1 of the Democrats since January.

3 weeks ago

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P Allen Macfarlane

I believe they learned that trick from the Republicans during the Obama years, back when they were the party of NO.

3 weeks ago

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Gary Stussie

Dems have perfected the party of NO process! Republicans calculate that at the current rate, it will take 11 years and four months to fill all possible Trump administration spots at an average of three and a half days spent considering each nominee.

Democrats are requiring that Republicans check all the procedural boxes on most nominees, even those they intend to eventually support. That requires the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, to request a formal “cloture” vote to move forward.

An “intervening day” is then required to allow the cloture request to “ripen.” Next is a vote to impose cloture followed by 30 hours of “post-cloture” debate before a final vote. Democrats have refused to shorten the debate time — to “yield back,” in the parlance of the Senate — though in most cases there is little to debate.

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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Brock Masters

Donna Brazile claims DNC rigged election for Hillary.

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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Gary Stussie

I am concerned that Russian trolls may be largely behind "advertising" the ANTFA movement.

"The communists in the Antifa crowd are planning to begin a revolution in America on Saturday, November 4 — almost exactly 100 years after the Bolshevik Revolution that took Russia out of the frying pan of Tsarist rule and into the fire of communist totalitarianism. While some see Antifa activists as the modern heroes of anti-Fascism — fighting against racism, sexism, and a litany of other “isms” — and others see them merely as the snowflake crowd of spoiled brats demanding free everything, the reality is that Antifa is one tool in the communists' toolbox to bring America to her knees. And Saturday, November 4, 2017, is the day they have chosen for the opening salvo in the American Bolshevik Revolution." Shaw (New American)

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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Brock Masters

Wouldn’t it be funny if Bob actually was a Russian troll? Wonder if Fred is one too?

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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Gary Stussie

My moneys is on Fred!

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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Brock Masters

Think this points to requiring a background check for internet users, banning fake names and accounts and a fee for an ID number to be entered before each internet session.

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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