The #WalkAway campaign on Twitter is an absolute joke. For weeks, our team has been attempting to find Democrats who are so sick of their party that they have decided to “walk away” and join the Republican party. It turns out, socially-aware individuals really don’t want to join a political organization that rips babies and children away from their parents, regularly attacks the LGBT community, tweets disparaging remarks at U.S. companies, and hands out billions of dollars in tax cuts to the rich, among many other misdeeds.
When I first reported via a tweet that The Hamilton 68 project was listing #Walkaway as the third most used tweet by Russian bots, I was immediately met with screaming tweets from Russian bots and a few #MAGA supporters. Many of the accounts attacking me, not surprisingly, had less than 100 followers, were only active on Twitter for a short period of time, and did little in the way of actually engaging when I asked questions.
It turns out, the fake #WalkAway campaign, launched most likely by Russian operatives, has also been creating incredibly fake #WalkAway ads. In each ad, people of various races and backgrounds are featured with a simple message about why they’ve left the Democratic party.
The problem with these ads? The people telling their deeply personal stories are actually models who posed for Shutterstock-featured photos.
Here’s our first example:
Look familiar? Maybe this will help explain where you’ve seen this woman.
The advertisers obviously found what they believe portrayed a strong, successful black woman and then exposed her skin color to pull at the heartstrings of Democrats.
Here’s a second ad:
And once again, the Shutterstock purchase page for the ad:
A young guy with tattoos? This is a great way to grab the attention of the younger, more progressive crowd who are becoming increasingly engaged with politics following Donald Trump’s election and subsequent actions. Even the Shutterstock ad points out the “cool good-looking young bearded man.”
And one more #Walkaway ad, just for good measure:
And his Shutterstock photo:
It’s obvious in this example that the creators of the ads didn’t want to focus on immigration with the picture of a white person so they chose an Indian man. If they can convince people of any nationality to believe in their immigration message, they have accomplished their goal.
The ads were first spotted by Michele Stapleton, a Brunswick, Maine-based photographer. Michele posted a simple warning on Facebook: “Don’t be fooled by the #Walkaway campaign. All the ‘people’ in their ads were purchased at Shutterstock.”
It turns out the ads are not just lies, they are also illegal. Here’s a passage from Shutterstock’s license agreement (emphasis is ours):
YOU MAY NOT:
Portray any person depicted in Visual Content (a “Model”) in a way that a reasonable person would find offensive, including but not limited to depicting a Model… c) in a political context, such as the promotion, advertisement or endorsement of any party, candidate, or elected official, or in connection with any political policy or viewpoint“
I’ve been saying for weeks that the #Walkaway movement is nothing more than a Russian propaganda machine that only people on the far-right would fall for and that appears to be the case. Despite seeing these ads populate my feed, I have yet to find any serious Democrats who decided to ditch the party and support Donald Trump or any other GOP candidate for that matter.
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James Kosur is the former Editor-In-Chief and co-founder of Hill Reporter. He recently served as an editor for Business Insider and various other publications. James and his partners sold Hill Reporter to a new owner in July 2019.