Wednesday, September 27, 2017

How Much More Than Just His Facebook Ad Campaign Did Putin Spend To Saddle America With The Incompetent And Divisive Trump?


I'm probably not an optimal Facebook consumer but I never even noticed there are any ads on Facebook and I don't spend much time on their platform anyway. My own Facebook page just automatically posts my twitter feed and helps me communicate with folks who can't be bothered to check out my blog. I'm sure if I paid attention I'd see the ads. But I'm good at blocking out ads. Still, there's something enraging about Putin's use of Facebook ads to influence voters in the 2016 presidential election. It's highly illegal for someone to accept contributions from a foreign power-- and no one disputes that the Kremlin's Facebook ad campaign was a contribution to the Trump campaign. The question though, is about how how direction the Trump campaign gave the Kremlin about the ad strategy. They didn't come up with it on their own.

Monday, the Washington Post started laying out the case for collusion. "The batch of more than 3,000 Russian-bought ads that Facebook is preparing to turn over to Congress shows a deep understanding of social divides in American society, with some ads promoting African American rights groups, including Black Lives Matter, and others suggesting that these same groups pose a rising political threat, say people familiar with the covert influence campaign." How much of that "deep understanding" came from inside Team Trump? "The Russian campaign-- taking advantage of Facebook’s ability to send contrary messages to different groups of users based on their political and demographic characteristics-- also sought to sow discord among religious groups. Other ads highlighted support for Democrat Hillary Clinton among Muslim women. These targeted messages, along with others that have surfaced in recent days, highlight the sophistication of an influence campaign slickly crafted to mimic and infiltrate U.S. political discourse while also seeking to heighten tensions between groups already wary of one another."
The nature and detail of these ads have troubled investigators at Facebook, on Capitol Hill and at the Justice Department, say people familiar with the advertisements, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share matters still under investigation.

... The ads that Facebook found raise troubling questions for a social networking and advertising platform that reaches 2 billion people each month, and they offer a rare window into how Russian operatives carried out their information operations during an especially tumultuous period in U.S. politics.

Investigators at Facebook discovered the Russian ads in recent weeks, the company has said, after months of trying in vain to trace disinformation efforts to Russia. The company said it has identified at least $100,000 in ads purchased through 470 phony Facebook pages and accounts. Facebook said this spending represented a tiny fraction of the political advertising on the platform during the 2016 campaign.

The divisive themes seized on by Russian operatives were similar to those that Trump and his supporters pushed on social media and on right-wing websites during the campaign. U.S. investigators are now trying to figure out whether Russian operators and members of Trump’s team coordinated in any way. Critics say Trump, as president, has further inflamed racial and religious divisions, citing his controversial statements after violent clashes in Charlottesville and limits imposed on Muslim immigration.

The previously undisclosed ads suggest that the operatives worked off evolving lists of racial, religious, political and economic themes. They used these to create pages, write posts and craft ads that would appear in users’ news feeds-- with the apparent goal of appealing to one audience and alienating another. In some cases, the pages even advertised events.

...Moscow’s interest in U.S. race relations dates back decades.

In Soviet times, operatives didn’t have the option of using the Internet, so they spread their messages by taking out ads in newspapers, posting fliers and organizing meetings.

Much like the online ads discovered by Facebook, messages spread by Soviet-era operatives were meant to look as though they were written by bona fide political activists in the United States, thereby disguising the involvement of an adversarial foreign power.

Russian information operations didn’t end with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

After a lull in tensions, Russia’s spy agencies became more assertive under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin. In recent years, those services have up­dated their propaganda protocols to take advantage of new technologies and the proliferation of ­social media platforms.

...[A]dvertisers who want to target Facebook ­users by demographics or interests have tens of thousands of categories to choose from, and they are able to flood users with ads wherever they go on the Internet.

Ads on Facebook have directly appeared in people’s news feeds since 2012. If a user “likes” a page, administrators of that page can pay for ads and post content that will then appear in that person’s news feed.

Since the 2012 presidential election, Facebook has become an essential tool for political campaigns that wish to target potential voters. During the height of election season, political campaigns are among the largest advertisers on Facebook. Facebook has built a large sales staff of account executives, some of whom have backgrounds in politics, who are trained to assist campaigns in spreading their messages, increasing engagement and getting immediate feedback on how they are performing.

The Trump campaign used these tools to great effect, while Clinton’s campaign preferred to rely on its own social media experts, according to people familiar with the campaigns.

...While Facebook has played down the impact of the Russian ads on the election, Dennis Yu, chief technology officer for BlitzMetrics, a digital marketing company that focuses on Facebook ads, said that $100,000 worth of Facebook ads could have been viewed hundreds of millions of times.

According to Yu, “$100,000 worth of very concentrated posts is very, very powerful. When you have a really hot post, you often get this viral multiplier. So when you buy this one ad impression, you can get an extra 20- to 40-times multiplier because those people comment and share it.”

Momentum is building in Congress and elsewhere in the federal government for a law requiring Facebook and other Web companies to reveal publicly who bought political ads and the amount that was spent on their platforms. Newspapers, television stations and other traditional carriers of campaign messages already disclose such information.
How dumbed down are certain Americans to absorb this Russian propaganda? 2016 exit polls didn't test for IQ scores but my own observations have been consistent: Trump voters in general have 2-digit IQs, which makes it difficult to navigate reality. That's the Trump base.

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At 7:15 AM, Anonymous wjbill said...

Is Mark Zuckerberg and agent? Just like Manafort?

At 10:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"No one disputes" that the "Kremlin's" Facebook ads influenced the election? Wow. Plenty dispute it. Like Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel.


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