- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2017

The House Intelligence Committee released evidence this week of an odd Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election with a “Buff Bernie Sanders” coloring book advertisement.

Efforts by lawmakers to better understand the depth and breadth of Russian meddling into the 2016 election have revealed social media experiments spanning everything from illegal immigration to the Black Lives Matter movement. One of the nation’s stranger decisions was to purchase a Facebook ad to sway LGBT voters toward Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders.

“Russian ads on Twitter … promoted stories about Hillary Clinton’s allegedly poor health or legal problems,” Democrats on the committee said in a statement released Wednesday. “But the social media campaign was also designed to further a broader Kremlin objective: sowing discord in the U.S. by inflaming passions on a range of divisive issues. Russia exploited real vulnerabilities that exist across online platforms and we must identify, expose, and defend ourselves against similar covert influence operations in the future. The companies here today must play a central role as we seek to better protect legitimate political expression, while preventing cyberspace from being misused by our adversaries.”

The ad was purchased for $2 and garnered nearly 1,000 impressions.

“I feel pretty violated and very confused,” Nicole Daddona, the creator of the coloring book, told BuzzFeed on Wednesday evening. “I’m an artist who thought this coloring book would be a cool way to promote Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential election.”

The book is still available on Barnes & Noble’s website for $15.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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