We already know Russia paid cash money to promote fake Facebook groups. conspiracy theories, and memes during the 2016 election, but they were also in the business of video production according to The Daily Beast.
The Russians reportedly hired two young black men from Nigeria who created videos to attack Hillary Clinton and promote Donald Trump while posing as young Americans from Atlanta, Georgia.
Videos published by Williams and Kalvin in late 2016, especially in October, often engaged in fever swamp theories about Hillary Clinton and in some cases promoting Donald Trump directly. One specific video published in October, prior to the presidential election, refers to Hillary Clinton as an “old racist bitch.”
“She’s a fucking racist,” the host says over a subdued rap beat. “And this woman is a witch,” he says as a picture portrays Clinton in Wizard of Oz attire. He goes on to praise Julian Assange for releasing hacked emails. “This woman, she’s sick on her head.”
They also promoted Trump.
“This is time for change. This is why I say that let our vote go for Trump. Because this man is a businessman. He’s not a politician. We can have deal with him,” Williams says in a video published in August of 2016. “Because I don’t see him as a racist. Because any businessman cannot be a racist because when you are a racist, then your business is going down.” He then makes a black-power fist as he endorses Trump.
They also promoted Bernie Sanders.
In an August video, one of the hosts explicitly endorses the movie Clinton Cash and begins the video by saying, “I support Bernie Sanders.”
“Today is old bitch Clinton time,” the host says before a title card informs people watching that the film will premiere the day prior to the Democratic National Convention.
How do we know the Russians paid for the creation of these videos?
The Facebook page associated with the YouTube channel was removed from Facebook after the company identified it as a fake account floated by Russian money. The Twitter account for the channel was also removed in August for the same reason.
It's not clear how many people were reached by these videos, but the Facebook page associate with the channel reportedly had 48,000 followers when it was purged. It's also hard to say how many of those followers were actually real people or Americans. You can buy followers for the right price.
Suffice to say Russia didn't leave any space untouched. They conspired to influence the election in virtually every corner of the mediasphere from social media to television. I don't know what the solution to this is, but I spent the morning thinking about requiring country of origin labels on all advertising just as it's required on all other consumer products.
This wild west atmosphere where anything goes in advertising on the web has to end. Yes, it's time for -- gasp! -- regulation.