Social media ads that Russia used to influence the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton were made public Wednesday, revealing at least one ad — Buff Bernie — aimed at pleasing gay voters with a buffed up version of Bernie Sanders promoting gay rights.
Facebook has said that it has found more than 3,000 ads linked to the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg troll farm with ties to the Russian government. The ads were reportedly seen by more than 11 million people between 2015 and 2017.
As part of the larger dump of the social media ads through which Russia sought to influence the election in favor of Donald Trump, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee shared the “Buff Bernie” ad — an image of Sen. Bernie Sanders wearing a speedo with generous muscles.
“You can color your own Bernie hero!” the ad says in questionable English. “There is a new coloring book calling ‘Buff Bernie: A coloring book for Berniacs’ is full of very attractive doodles of Bernie Sanders in muscle poses.’”
“The coloring is something that suits for all people,” the “Buff Bernie” ad continues. “I totally agree with her. I recently heard some hateful from the Hillary supporters about Bernie Sanders and his supporters, so I really love the idea of this color book. I think that Bernie would love it.”
The book does actually exist. Written and illustrated by Nicole Daddona, copies of the book are still available online for $15.
The ad was linked to the Facebook page LGBT United. The Washington Post explains the effectiveness of these pages was through it’s sincere tone:
The one [LGBT United] seemingly managed by a lesbian is intimate, confidential and chatty, with complaints about parents and teachers not understanding the challenges of being young and gay. The English is nearly flawless. One popular post said simply, “Bi and proud!” with a thumbs-up emoji attached to the end.
Ads dumped other than Buff Bernie
The Russian propagandists ran several pages designed to look as though they were part of the Black Lives Matter movement. One ad encouraged Facebook users to like the fake page “Black Matters.” The ad featured pictures of African-American people shot by police, and contained the message, “Join us because we care.”
The troll group spent more than $2,500 in 2015 and 2016, paid in rubles, promoting this ad above. It was targeted to places around the U.S., including Ferguson, Missouri, the place where one of the people featured in the ad, Michael Brown, lived and died.
In October, 2016, a meme appearing to show Satan and Jesus Christ arm wrestling was posted on the Russian page “Army of Jesus.” The text accompanying the image read, “Hillary is a Satan. And even though Donald Trump isn’t a saint by any means, he’s at least an honest man and he cares deeply for this country. My vote goes for him!”
Real life events and rallies
According to The Wall Street Journal, one such event was a candlelight vigil following the Pulse nightclub attack last year, where a family member of one of the victims was in attendance.