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The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President

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The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President

How new technologies and techniques pioneered by dictators will shape the 2020 election

The Atlantic,

5 min read
4 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Donald Trump’s technologically sophisticated disinformation-based reelection campaign is transforming American politics. 

Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples
  • Insider's Take


One day, investigative reporter McKay Coppins created a fake Facebook account and clicked “Like” on Donald Trump-related pages. Bombarded with pro-Trump propaganda, Coppins was surprised at how this constant stream of disinformation succeeded in making him question facts he knew to be true. Coppins went on to investigate the people and the tactics behind Trump’s expansive and well-orchestrated campaign to drown out the political messages of the president’s Democratic challengers. What he discovered will frighten everyone concerned about the future of democracy in the age of the internet.


President Donald Trump is running a technologically sophisticated disinformation and propaganda campaign to secure his reelection.

Media specialist and long-time Trump associate Brad Parscale runs the president’s 2020 reelection campaign out of an office outside Washington, DC. He has over one billion dollars at his disposal. Parscale ran 5.9 million Facebook ads during Trump’s first campaign for the presidency – in comparison to Hillary Clinton’s 66,000 ads. The seeming efficacy of those ads underscores how social media has changed the tactics of illiberal politicians like Trump: Rather than quashing dissent, they can now just drown out the voices of critics and sow confusion by putting out a constant stream of disinformation. Platforms like Facebook won’t stand in the campaign’s way when it comes to spreading false information. Mark Zuckerberg has stated his company has no business arbitrating political speech.

Tailored digital messages which micro-target voters is another central component of Trump’s online campaign. The goal is not to try to convert people opposed to the president into fans, but ...

About the Author

McKay Coppins is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of The Wilderness, a book about the future of the Republican Party.

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