Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign ‘deliberately deterred black Americans from voting’

Targeted ads allegedly used to encourage 3.5 million voters to stay away from polls

Donald Trump
Donald Trump at a 2016 rally in Rochester, New York
(Image credit: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign secretly targeted millions of Democrat-supporting black voters with adverts designed to convince them not to go to the polls, newly unearthed data suggests.

The covert effort reportedly focused on 16 key swing states and triggered a collapse in turnout among black voters that saw Trump claiming narrow victories in several of the battleground regions.

According to a “vast cache of data” obtained by Channel 4, black voters identified by the Trump team as being likely to back his rival Hillary Clinton were marked as “deterrence” - and were then targeted with negative adverts about the Democrat candidate on Facebook and other social media platforms.

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The unearthed data “contains details on almost 200 million Americans, among more than 5,000 files, which together amass almost five terabytes of data – making it one of the biggest leaks in history”, the broadcaster reports.

The alleged push to keep voters away from the polls was designed in conjunction with election consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which “ceased trading last year following revelations that it used dirty tricks to help win elections around the world and had gained unauthorised access to tens of millions of Facebook profiles”, says The Guardian.

In the swing state of Michigan, which Trump won by 10,000 votes, black people account for 15% of eligible voters but represented 33% of the deterrence category in the Trump database.

And in Wisconsin, 5.4% of voters are black yet they made up 17% of the deterrence group. The Rupublican won the state by a margin of 30,000.

As The Telegraph notes, 2016 election saw the first fall in black turnout for 20 years, a slump that helped “Trump snatch victory in pivotal states”.

Jamal Watkins, vice president of the US National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told Channel 4 that the campaign amounted to voter “supression”, adding: “We don’t use data to say who can we deter and keep at home. That just seems, fundamentally, it’s a shift from the notion of democracy.”

The allegations have been dismissed as "fake news" by Tim Murtaugh, the communications director for Trump’s re-election campaign.

But civil rights campaigners are calling on Facebook to disclose ads and targeting information from the 2016 election that have never been made public. The Trump campaign spent £44m on Facebook posts alone during that election cycle.

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