Was there a connection between Russian Facebook propaganda and a foiled terrorist attack in Kansas City?

Was there a connection between Russian Facebook propaganda and a foiled terrorist attack in Kansas City?

The Russia connectionWas there a connection between Russian Facebook propaganda and a foiled terrorist attack in Kansas City?


Published 15 June 2018

On 18 April, a jury convicted three Kansas men of conspiring to use “weapons of mass destruction” against an apartment complex where many of the residents were Somali refugees. They were arrested before they were able to carry out their bomb plot in 2016. All three were known to be very active on Facebook, where they called themselves “Crusaders.” Experts wonder whether the divisive and polarizing ads which Russian disinformation specialists ran on Facebook during 2016 motivated the three to plan the attack.



On 18 April, a jury convicted three Kansas men of conspiring to use “weapons of mass destruction” against an apartment complex where many of the residents were Somali refugees. They were arrested before they were able to carry out their bomb plot in 2016. All three were known to be very active on Facebook, where they called themselves “Crusaders.” Prior to their arrest, they speculated that the apartment complex was home to human traffickers and radicals affiliated with the Islamic State group.


On 10 June, the Kansas City Star reported that the men “may have been motivated” by Russian “manipulation on social media,” specifically Facebook. However, the article did not prove a conclusive link between the men and the Facebook ads and pages created by Russia in 2016. Instead, the expert cited in the article, Brian Levin of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, simply noted a correlation between the time the three men were planning their attack and the period in 2016 when the Russians were placing an increasing number of ads with racially charged content.


Polygraph.info talked to Levin, who clarified the comments he made to the Kansas City Star.


“If you read my quotes, they’re accurate,” he said. “The bottom line is — the point I’m trying to make is that we have data, and some of this data is intriguing and correlates to certain fluctuations we’ve seen. But by the same token if you’re looking for a record for who saw what ad on Facebook, that’s not something we did, nor did we make some declarative statement about.”