Facebook Embeds Advised Trumps Campaign, Digital Director Says

Facebook Inc.’s platform was a crucial messaging tool for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to the campaign’s digital director — who told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he hand-picked pro-Trump “embeds” from the company to help him use the platform in targeted ways.

“Twitter is how [Trump] talked to the people, Facebook was going to be how he won,” Brad Parscale told “60 Minutes,” according to an excerpt of an interview that the program intends to air Sunday. The social-media platform was particularly valuable because it allows for targeted messaging, Parscale said, according to the excerpt.

Facebook’s employees showed up for work at his office multiple days a week to provide guidance on how to best use the company’s services, Parscale said in the interview excerpt. “I wanted people who supported Donald Trump,” he said — and he questioned the workers about their political views.

Parscale didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A Facebook spokesman said the company provided the Trump campaign with the same guidance and services it offers any major advertiser.

Facebook has found itself at the center of multiple inquiries into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. The social-media giant said it has so far found $100,000 in advertising spending linked to a Russian troll farm that has ties to the Kremlin. The company turned over details on the ads to Congress and to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the criminal investigation into Russia’s campaign meddling and possible links to Trump’s associates.

A person familiar with the company’s work for Trump’s campaign took issue with Parscale’s use of the word “embeds” to describe its employees because it implies that the campaign work was their sole focus. The workers had tasks for other clients as well, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter is sensitive.

The company offered Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton the same opportunity, the person said.

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Although federal election law generally bars corporations from aiding political campaigns, there’s nothing wrong with a company providing training and services to a campaign if it offers the same services to every client spending similar amounts, said Larry Noble, former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission.

“If you’d do it for any customer, it’s OK,” Noble said, adding that the services have to be offered to all customers. “It can’t be just for political campaigns.”

Facebook was especially useful in reaching rural voters, Parscale told “60 Minutes,” according to the published excerpt. “So now Facebook lets you get to … 15 people in the Florida Panhandle that I would never buy a TV commercial for,” he said.

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