After The Daily Beast found known Russian accounts that used Facebook’s Events tool to promote rallies inside the United States, the company said that it was not well positioned to determine “if something like coordination occurred” between the Trump campaign and Russia—something investigators and security researchers doubt because of the social network’s massive trove of information on its customers.
But the discovery of the Being Patriotic rallies suggests that the fraudulent activity on Facebook did indeed involve messaging on behalf of Trump, did prompt at least some Americans to rally on Trump’s behalf, and did result in the Trump campaign volunteers subsequently sharing material from those events.
The pro-Trump events represent “the next level” of suspected Russian influence operations, said Clint Watts, a former FBI agent who has testified about those operations to a Senate committee investigating them.
“This would be a direct effort that they attempted that’s more than online promotion,” Watts told The Daily Beast. “‘Let’s organize and try to get people to move to events in a proactive way around a candidate. Again, if it traces back to Russia, you can’t deny that’s foreign influence in an election.”