A group of progressive Democrats tried to undermine Roy Moore's Senate campaign by associating him with alcohol prohibition with a fake Facebook page, hoping to scare off moderate and business-oriented Republican voters, according to The New York Times.
The effort, called "Dry Alabama," is the second reported online false flag operation by Democrats who sought to weaponize fabricated online information to influence the election.
Matt Osborne, an activist who helped with the effort, justified the tactics by claiming Republicans do the same thing.
"If you don't do it, you're fighting with one hand tied behind your back," Osborne told the NYT. "You have a moral imperative to do this — to do whatever it takes."
About the fake page: Dry Alabama was a Facebook page that was made to look as if it was run by a group of Moore supporters who wanted to outlaw alcohol in Alabama. The issue is somewhat divisive among Alabama Republicans as fewer counties remain dry.
"Business conservatives favor wet; culture-war conservatives favor dry," Osborne said. "That gave us an idea."
What was the impact? The New York Times reported that the page, which was only active for the two weeks leading up to the election, got 4.6 million page views and 97,000 engagements (likes or shares), and the page's videos were viewed 430,000 times. Democratic Sen. Doug Jones won the election by 22,000 votes.
Who funded this effort? Dry Alabama was funded by two donors in Virginia who opposed Moore. The effort received $100,000 funneled through an organization called Investing in Us — the same group that was involved with the first reported online fake information effort in the election. 80 percent of that money went toward Facebook ads.
Was it legal? While fake pages like Dry Alabama violate Facebook's rules, election laws don't directly address them, creating a grey area for political operatives seeking to influence elections online.
"The law has clearly not caught up with social media," said Beth Becker, a consultant who handled ad spending for Dry Alabama.