LGBTQ Content Filtering: Update #6

In the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, an investigation by the House Intelligence Committee revealed there were approximately 3000 ads bought and ran by the “Russia-based Internet Research Agency between 2015 and 2017.” The purpose of these ads was not to support any one candidate in the election, but to gain following among groups of various identities and influence their ultimate voting behavior. Groups were targeted based on qualities like race (stoking conversation about topics like police brutality and racial inequality), political leaning (conservative or liberal), immigration (whether for open immigration or against), and sexuality. The vast majority of LGBTQ related ads were ran by the “LGBT United” Facebook page. I went through the released ads and compiled every one specifically targeting LGBTQ users. This totaled to 144 of the approximately 3,000 ads released. 

One of the ads specifically targeted Hillary Clinton’s record on taking money from anti-LGBTQ groups, attempting to get users to not vote for her. Although many of the ads are written in an awkward tone, such as one their first posts describing the page as “Everyday news, updates, coming outs, and much more,” most would not warrant a second-glance or a report from users. For a first attempt at fooling and appealing to the American LGBTQ community, the potential for another attempt is frightening. The technology has only evolved since the last presidential election, and the “social issues, elections, or politics” authorization is not difficult to work around. I’m not an advertiser or business owner, and I managed to get through the process with little difficulty. Although the threat of this happening in the United States again is scary enough, the idea that it may be a tactic being used by the Russian government to persecute its own queer citizens is even more disturbing.

Looking at this event and the forced data sharing I mentioned in my last update, it is apparent that the Russian government has a grasp on how to masquerade as and appeal to members of the LGBTQ community on social media. Especially if the government continues to force smaller companies to store their data on accessible servers, it will be harder for larger ones like Facebook to resist.

As I near the end of my project, I will talking about some of the other issues affecting the LGBTQ community on social media that I unfortunately was not able to look at within the scope of this project.