Shortly after election day in 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called Donald Trump to congratulate him on his victory, BuzzFeed News reported Thursday. The previously-undisclosed phone call came after the Trump campaign paid Facebook millions of dollars to advertise on its platform during election season. Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment on the reports.
BuzzFeed News also reported that Facebook, in internal documents, praised the Trump campaign as an "innovator" for its use of social media advertising to promote Trump's candidacy, and at one point proposed inviting representatives of the Trump campaign to educate Facebook on how to refine its own internal marketing strategy.
Facebook became central to many analysts' post-election autopsies when it was reported that the Russian government advertised heavily on Facebook throughout election season in an attempt to sink Hillary Clinton's candidacy. According to Facebook, roughly 150 million users were exposed to Russia's ads, many of which sought to boost the campaigns of Trump and Bernie Sanders.
"Facebook loved us during the campaign,” RNC director of advertising Gary Coby, who was director of the Trump campaign's digital advertising and fundraising, told BuzzFeed. “Their team was heavily involved because it was a great learning experience and Hillary's team was not doing much.”
According to internal documents obtained by Bloomberg, Facebook concluded after the election that the Trump campaign waged a more complex, and ultimately more effective, advertising campaign on the company's platform than did the Clinton campaign.
During election season, Trump's team ran 5.9 million versions of its ads on the platform, 84 percent of which asked Facebook users to to take an action. By contrast, Clinton ran 66,000 versions of its ads, and only 56 percent of them asked users to take some sort of action. Facebook concluded that Trump's ads focused more on bringing in donors, while Clinton's attempted to ensure that she had broad appeal as a candidate. Between June and November of 2016, the Trump campaign spent $44 million on ads, the company wrote, while the Clinton campaign spent $28 million.
“Both campaigns spent heavily on Facebook between June and November of 2016,” the internal documents said. “But Trump’s FB campaigns were more complex than Clinton’s and better leveraged Facebook’s ability to optimize for outcomes.”
Zuckerberg has recently faced criticism for refusing to ban fake news sites, most notably InfoWars, from his company's platform. In an interview with Recode, Zuckerberg explained that he also wouldn't take down posts or ads denying that the Holocaust happened, as he doesn't think Holocaust deniers are "intentionally getting it wrong." He added that, as a Jew, he finds Holocaust denial "deeply offensive."
In a statement to BuzzFeed, Facebook’s global politics and government outreach director said that the social media network didn't directly advise the Trump campaign on its use of the platform during the campaign.
"While we offer insights into how our products work and provide technical support, campaigns make their own decisions about how to use our tools," Katie Harbath said."
Brad Parscale, the 2016 Trump campaign's digital director who's now managing Trump's 2020 reelection campaign, told BuzzFeed that he's upset Facebook hasn't publicly praised the Trump campaign for its use of the platform during the election.
"I'm completely disappointed that Facebook won't step up and announce to the world how well we used the platform and that we changed the way Facebook advertising will work in the future," Parscale told BuzzFeed.