An investigative report out of the United Kingdom suggests the 2016 Trump campaign purposely targeted Black voters with ads and alternative propaganda in an effort to deter them from voting.

The affirming data collected by Channel 4 News was originally used in a database built by Cambridge Analytica. In 2016, the British political consulting firm aligned with the Republican National Committee to provide harvested personal data from Facebook that had been collected without users’ consent. The Channel 4 report alleges that 3.5 million Black Americans were categorized by the 2016 Trump campaign as “Deterrence.” These are the people they wanted to stay at home on Election Day.

According to the report, Black people in the state of Georgia made up 61 percent of the campaign’s ‘Deterrence’ category. In North Carolina, they were 46 percent. In Wisconsin, where the reporter was stationed for his reporting, Black people make up just 5.4 percent of the population but were 17 percent of the ‘Deterrence’ grouping.

Though at least one person interviewed said the targeted ads are not what persuaded him to stay home in 2016, Black voter turnout in that general election hit a 20 year low. The presidency was determined by a number of factors, but the data confirms Donald Trump was able to win in states like Wisconsin and Michigan by extremely small margins. Margins thinner than the number of registered Black voters who stayed home within the state. 

Cambridge Analytica collapsed in 2018 after multiple investigations revealed the scandalous connection between the firm, Facebook, and the 2016 election. However, Facebook is still able to run political advertising despite often being used to spread misinformation and disinformation about political candidates and policies which target certain groups. Channel 4 concluded that the campaign spent roughly $60 million in Facebook ads during the last presidential election. Much of that went to targeted ads like the one where Hillary Clinton refers to youth with lengthy criminal records as “superpredators.”

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In previous interviews, 2016 Trump campaign officials have denied targeting African Americans, but Channel 4’s reporting suggests otherwise. Not only do they claim a “confidential document” reveals Cambridge Analytica admitted that the Trump campaign targeted the “AA” (African American) population with the “Predators video,” they show they spent a considerable amount to do so. 

NAACP Vice President Jamal Watkins when confronted with the information labeled the tactics used by the 2016 Trump campaign as a modern-day suppression campaign that utilized data and digital technology to keep Black voters at home.


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