As Trump attacks voting by mail, his campaign is promoting it on Facebook

Thousands of ads have been viewed more than 1 million times in states including Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Donald Trump

Trump is running thousands of Facebook ads encouraging people to request their ballots.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump's campaign is flooding swing states with Facebook ads, urging people to request their ballots for November's election, despite his frequent and unfounded claims that voting by mail is riddled with fraud.

According to Facebook's ad archive, the president is currently running thousands of ads on Facebook, with messages like "President Trump wants you to request your ballot," or, more succinctly, "Request your ballot." The ads, which don't explicitly mention voting by mail, have been viewed more than 1 million times by Facebook users in Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The Facebook ads are running as robocalls featuring the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., have rolled out in 13 states calling absentee voting "a safe and secure way to guarantee your voice is heard." Both messages are a far cry from the president's claims that "there is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent." This week, the FBI refuted those claims, saying they have "not seen to date a coordinated national voter fraud effort."

The ads aren't just about encouraging people to vote by mail. They also double as a data collection maneuver. Clicking through them leads to the Trump campaign's website, where people are asked to enter their address, date of birth, email and phone number, before being directed to resources where they can check their registration status, commit to vote or continue on to their state's board of elections. Generally, only first name, last name and date of birth are required to check registration status.

Trump's Facebook ads The ads double as a data collection maneuver.Screenshot: Facebook

President Trump's digital director, Gary Coby, did not immediately respond to Protocol's request for comment.

Facebook has recently undertaken its own voter turnout push, launching its Voter Information Center, which leads users to resources where they can sign up to vote by mail. Recently, the watchdog group Tech Transparency Project accused Facebook of bowing to the Trump campaign, after internal emails suggested the company scaled back its initial rollout of the Center over the July 4th weekend. Facebook's spokesperson Andy Stone told Protocol the emails were the result of a "miscommunication," but would not comment on whether the rollout was in fact scaled back.

Facebook introduced its ad archive after the 2016 election, amid concerns over so-called "dark ads," which referred to microtargeted digital ads that only a tiny fraction of the electorate would ever see. Some worried that politicians could send one palatable message to the public, then use targeted ads for more underhanded tactics like suppressing the vote. Amid threats of regulation, Facebook created the archive to shed more light on those dark ads.

In this set of ads, the Trump campaign is definitely broadcasting a different message than it has in public, only in this case, it's the public message that has people accusing the president of voter suppression.

The Trump campaign has tried to distinguish in the past between absentee voting — which the president and his wife, Melania, plan to do — and universal mail-in voting. But the ads make no such distinction. Neither, it turns out, does the U.S. Postal Service.


This carbon capture startup wants to clean up the worst polluters

The founder and CEO of point-source carbon capture company Carbon Clean discusses what the startup has learned, the future of carbon capture technology, as well as the role of companies like his in battling the climate crisis.

Carbon Clean CEO Aniruddha Sharma told Protocol that fossil fuels are necessary, at least in the near term, to lift the living standards of those who don’t have access to cars and electricity.

Photo: Carbon Clean

Carbon capture and storage has taken on increasing importance as companies with stubborn emissions look for new ways to meet their net zero goals. For hard-to-abate industries like cement and steel production, it’s one of the few options that exist to help them get there.

Yet it’s proven incredibly challenging to scale the technology, which captures carbon pollution at the source. U.K.-based company Carbon Clean is leading the charge to bring down costs. This year, it raised a $150 million series C round, which the startup said is the largest-ever funding round for a point-source carbon capture company.

Keep Reading Show less
Michelle Ma

Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol covering climate. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.

Why companies cut staff after raising millions

Are tech firms blowing millions in funding just weeks after getting it? Experts say it's more complicated than that.

Bolt, Trade Republic, HomeLight, and Stord all drew attention from funding announcements that happened just weeks or days before layoffs.

Photo: Pulp Photography/Getty Images

Fintech startup Bolt was one of the first tech companies to slash jobs, cutting 250 employees, or a third of its staff, in May. For some workers, the pain of layoffs was a shock not only because they were the first, but also because the cuts came just four months after Bolt had announced a $355 million series E funding round and achieved a peak valuation of $11 billion.

“Bolt employees were blind sided because the CEO was saying just weeks ago how everything is fine,” an anonymous user wrote on the message board Blind. “It has been an extremely rough day for 1/3 of Bolt employees,” another user posted. “Sadly, I was one of them who was let go after getting a pay-raise just a couple of weeks ago.”

Keep Reading Show less
Nat Rubio-Licht

Nat Rubio-Licht is a Los Angeles-based news writer at Protocol. They graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in newspaper and online journalism in May 2020. Prior to joining the team, they worked at the Los Angeles Business Journal as a technology and aerospace reporter.


The fight to define the carbon offset market's future

The world’s largest carbon offset issuer is fighting a voluntary effort to standardize the industry. And the fate of the climate could hang in the balance.

It has become increasingly clear that scaling the credit market will first require clear standards and transparency.

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

There’s a major fight brewing over what kind of standards will govern the carbon offset market.

A group of independent experts looking to clean up the market’s checkered record and the biggest carbon credit issuer on the voluntary market is trying to influence efforts to define what counts as a quality credit. The outcome could make or break an industry increasingly central to tech companies meeting their net zero goals.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).


White House AI Bill of Rights lacks specific guidance for AI rules

The document unveiled today by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is long on tech guidance, but short on restrictions for AI.

While the document provides extensive suggestions for how to incorporate AI rights in technical design, it does not include any recommendations for restrictions on the use of controversial forms of AI.

Photo: Ana Lanza/Unsplash

It was a year in the making, but people eagerly anticipating the White House Bill of Rights for AI will have to continue waiting for concrete recommendations for future AI policy or restrictions.

Instead, the document unveiled today by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is legally non-binding and intended to be used as a handbook and a “guide for society” that could someday inform government AI legislation or regulations.

Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights features a list of five guidelines for protecting people in relation to AI use:

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories