Joel Winston — How the Trump Campaign Built an Identity Database and Used Facebook Ads to Win the Election

Trump’s digital team created a South Park-style animation of Hillary Clinton delivering the “super predator” line (using audio from her original 1996 sound bite), as cartoon text popped up around her: “Hillary Thinks African Americans are Super Predators.” Then, Trump’s animated “super predator” political advertisement was delivered to certain African American voters via Facebook “dark posts”—nonpublic paid posts shown only to the Facebook users that Trump chose.

Facebook is refusing to release a copy of the animated “Hillary Thinks African Americans are Super Predators” advertisement, or any other ‘negative’ presidential political ad that it ran. Facebook is also refusing to release details about the gender, ethnic, or location targeting parameters of these ads. Until further review, it’s uncertain if these targeted political advertisements are fully compliant with federal law.

Joel Winston — How the Trump Campaign Built an Identity Database and Used Facebook Ads to Win the Election, on

Image by StuSeeger Joel Winston -- How the Trump Campaign Built an Identity Database and Used Facebook Ads to Win the Election

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8 thoughts on “Joel Winston — How the Trump Campaign Built an Identity Database and Used Facebook Ads to Win the Election

  1. Both interesting and impressive. From all outward appearances, Trump did not have any tactical strategy, other than voicing inchoate dissatisfactions, unaccompanied by realistic or elaborated corrective policies. He was widely believed to be undisciplined, impulsive, and unresponsive to his strategy team. That he was doing as well as he seemed to be was living testimony to Hillary’s weakness as a candidate.

    But the fact that there was a strategy, that it was smart, and innovative, and well-executed, makes me feel a little better. Understand that I still think that Trump will be a beyond-awful president. He is clearly shallow, narcissistic, and uninformed. But the idea that his team actually “earned” its success, somehow makes me feel a little better, a little more hopeful that the administration can be organized, adaptive, and responsive to changing facts on the ground.


    • This is pretty much my take on the story — I thought it was clever. As notes, this may very well be not particularly sophisticated use of social media, but politics need not be particularly subtle or sophisticated in order to be effective.

      Wisconsin (10 Electoral Votes): 1,409,282 Trump – 1,381,893 Clinton (Trump wins plurality by 27,389 votes).
      Michigan (16 Electoral Votes): 2,277,914 Trump – 2,264,807 Clinton (Trump wins plurality by 27,389 votes).
      Pennsylvania (20 Electoral Votes): 2,901,295 Trump – 2,843,707 Clinton (Trump wins plurality by 57,588 votes).

      That’s a total of under 100,000 votes in an election with 133,060,202 votes have been cast. So with a total of 98,807 more votes in those three states, we would be looking at an incoming Hillary Clinton Administration right now instead of what’s actually happening.

      100,000 votes “discouraged” is within the power of social media. It’s plausibly within the realm of ballot box stuffing, although I suspect if that had actually been going on it would have been detected by now. But as I wrote before, why stuff a ballot box? 100,000 votes is probably within the power of perfectly legal frameworks intended to discourage or disallow probable Democratic voters.

      (N.b., Michigan’s results are not yet certified and subject to revision.)


  2. soooooooo like this is not particularly novel nor adroit use of paid social advertising…is it just that the rest of world has no idea how anything works, or is this hangover from the trump win coloring stuff?


  3. 2015: “lol, conservatives think that Facebook is filtering news so people don’t see their ads and stories and stuff, where do people get these dumbass conspiracy theories”
    2016: “omg u guys conservatives are sending secret ads that nobody knows about directly to black people, also the ship on the Snapple bottle is a slave transport


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