Russia used Facebook to create pro-Trump flash mobs in Florida during the election

It’s pretty clear by now that Russia fully succeeded in its efforts to meddle in the 2016 election and get Donald Trump — or at least, not Hillary Clinton — elected president. We have already heard about Russian efforts to spread fake news, create anti-immigrant rallies and buy anti-Hillary ads on the site. Now we know they’ve gone even further: The Daily Beast reported on Wednesday that Russian operatives tried to organize more than a dozen pro-Trump rallies in Florida, a swing state, during the campaign.

The Beast reports:

The demonstrations—at least one of which was promoted online by local pro-Trump activists— brought dozens of supporters together in real life. They appear to be the first case of Russian provocateurs successfully mobilizing Americans over Facebook in direct support of Donald Trump.

The Aug. 20, 2016, events were collectively called “Florida Goes Trump!” and they were billed as a “patriotic state-wide flash mob,” unfolding simultaneously in 17 different cities and towns in the battleground state.

The site notes that it’s hard to determine what the turnout actually was for these events, partially because Facebook deleted many of the Russian troll accounts. But videos and photos from at least two flash mobs in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs are still online.

The site talked to Clint Watts, a former FBI agent, who called this meddling “the next level” of Russian interference.

“This would be a direct effort that they attempted that’s more than online promotion. 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.”

So to recap: Russia tried to collude with the Trump campaign for their own purposes, spread fake news that smeared Clinton, bought anti-Clinton ads on Facebook, hacked voter rolls and created fake pro-Trump rallies in a swing state; then, their candidate got elected and immediately tried to discredit any investigation into Russia’s meddling, and then decided that anything critical of him at all was the new definition of “fake news” — all because Vladimir Putin was afraid of Hillary Clinton. But who cares if a foreign power interfered in our election and helped embarrass us on the international stage, so long as you get to take healthcare away from millions of people, right?

[Photo: Getty]