Securing the Black vote is pivotal to winning an election. Yet instead of pandering to catch the Black electorate's eye or maybe running on platforms that would actually help their lives, Donald Trump is being accused of taking the back door by discouraging Black Americans from hitting the polls.
Trump allegedly created a concentrated "secret effort" to sway about 3.5 million Black voters from voting in 16 battleground states—some of which he narrowly won, the Guardian notes. He did this by deliberately targeting Black voters with negative ads about Hillary Clinton via Facebook which damaged the Black Democratic vote.
These claims come as the result of an investigation by Channel 4 News. During the investigation, the British news program leaked a copy of a vast election database it says was used by the Trump campaign in 2016. The database contained the records of 198 million Americans and included details about domestic and economic status acquired from market research firms.
It also segregated voters into eight categories. The category called "deterrence" listed voters who were likely to vote for Clinton or not vote at all. This category was disproportionately Black and targeted by Trump's campaign team. The goal was to convince the potential voters that not hitting the polls was better than voting for Clinton. This was done by using "dark adverts" on their Facebook feeds that attacked Clinton and often argued that she doesn't care about the Black population.
The effort was reportedly created by Cambridge Analytica. The election consultant company stopped trading last year after it was revealed that it uses unethical tricks to help candidates win elections like gaining unauthorized access to Facebook information. Trump's effort led to millions of Black voters who turned out to vote for Barack Obama in 2012 staying home when Hillary Clinton was running for president.
As imagined, Trump's attempt to suppress the Black vote did not sit well community leaders.
"So, we use data—similar to voter file data—but it’s to motivate, persuade and encourage folks to participate," the vice president of the NAACP said to Channel 4 when asked about the investigation. "We don’t use the data to say who can we deter and keep at home. That just seems, fundamentally, it’s a shift from the notion of democracy."
Facebook will not confirm how many ads were run by Trump in 2016 but it did say that "since 2016, elections have changed and so has Facebook—what happened with Cambridge Analytica couldn’t happen today." Trump and his administration have previously denied the accusations and declined to comment on the investigation.