Speed Reads

Things that make you go hmmm

Russian operatives got more than 62,000 Facebook users to confirm they were attending sham events during the 2016 election

Russian agents managed to get fake Facebook events in front of the eyes of almost 340,000 users during the 2016 election, with 62,500 users going as far as to confirm their plans to attend. The numbers reflect Russian trolls' startling ability to physically mobilize Americans through social media, a development that former FBI agent Clinton Watts told The Washington Post was "unprecedented."

The Russian operatives "just did it persistently, and they did it well," Watts said.

Facebook previously admitted that an estimated 126 million people saw free posts made by Russian operatives, and another 10 million saw ads paid for by the St. Petersburg "troll farm" known as the Internet Research Agency. It isn't clear how many people actually showed up for any of the 129 events pushed by Russian agents, and Facebook won't confirm a full list of events.

Despite the lack of transparency, Facebook has previously disclosed that Russian-controlled accounts were behind two dueling rallies at the same place and time in Houston, "Stop Islamization of Texas" and "Save Islamic Knowledge," which serve as an example of "how Russians hoped to turn divisions into open conflict," The Washington Post writes.

"This was … about measuring individual motivations to translate online signals into real-world behaviors," said Columbia University journalism research director Jonathan Albright. Read more about Russian agents' efforts to physically motivate Americans during the election at The Washington Post.