Russia Tried To Undermine Trump After The Election
Following today’s Senate Judiciary panel hearings with social media executives, the establishment’s ‘Russians colluded with Trump’ narrative is hanging but all but the thinnest of threads.
Having shown that so-called ‘Russian actors’ “were trying to create discord between Americans,” during the election – which politicians attempted to position as “directed against Clinton,” top lawyers from Facebook and Twitter said Tuesday that Russian-linked posts and advertisements placed on the social networks after Election Day sought to sow doubt about President Donald Trump’s victory.
The event was shared with 61,000 users.
“Join us in the streets! Stop Trump and his bigoted agenda!” reads the Facebook event page for the rally.
“Divided is the reason we just fell. We must unite despite our differences to stop HATE from ruling the land.”
And that appears to have the ‘Russians’ m.o. after the election, as Politico reports, Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch told a Senate Judiciary panel that content generated by a Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency after Nov. 8 centered on “fomenting discord about the validity of his [Trump’s] election.”
“During the election, they were trying to create discord between Americans, most of it directed against Clinton.
After the election you saw Russian-tied groups and organizations trying to undermine President Trump’s legitimacy. Is that what you saw on Facebook?” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked at the hearing.
Stretch and his Twitter counterpart, Sean Edgett, called that an “accurate” statement.
Not really the one-sided, reason-for-my-loss, Russians-colluded narrative that the left (and right establishment) would like to be spun.
The social media giants’ counsels parried most grandstanding blows from the various politicians; however, there were five key moments that Politico identified during the hearings…
1) First look at the fake Russian ads
Tuesday’s hearing offered the public its first look at political ads that Facebook and Twitter have identified as being purchased by the Russia-sponsored Internet Research Agency. The companies provided copies of the ads to congressional investigators earlier this month and revealed yesterday that they were seen by millions of users in the U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) showed an advertisement depicting an altered image of comedian Aziz Ansari holding a sign deceptively claiming voters could cast ballots via text from home. Meanwhile, Coons decried a sponsored image of a kneeling solider with the text “Hillary Clinton has a 69 percent disapproval rate among all veterans” overlaid on top. Facebook has said publicly that lawmakers should decide whether to make all 3,000 Russia-backed ads it has found available for public review.
2) Facebook not sure whether Russian ads swayed election
Facebook wasn’t able to offer much in the form of a definitive answer when Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) asked the company if it felt like content on its platform had an effect on the election. “In an election where a total of about 115,000 votes would have changed the outcome, can you say that the false and misleading propaganda people saw on your Facebook didn’t have an impact on the election?” Hirono asked. Stretch dodged in response. “We’re not well-positioned to judge why any one person or an entire electorate voted as it did,” he said.
3) Facebook won’t say no to accepting election-related foreign money
Franken, in an especially fiery exchange, asked Twitter, Google and Facebook if they would commit to not accepting foreign money payments on election-related advertisements, saying he wanted a simple “yes” or “no” answer from the platforms — and wanted to know why Facebook didn’t catch Russian agents purchasing ads sooner. Stretch said he hesitated on the foreign currency question because “it’s relatively easy for bad actors to switch currencies. So it’s a signal but not enough.” Edgett gave a quick “yes” to Franken, and Google Law Enforcement and Information Security Director Richard Salgado said Google would need to have a good enough “signal” that the transaction was illegal to keep it from going through. “Foreigners can’t use money in our campaign, you know that?” Franken said.
4) Democrats — allies of tech — attack their friends
For Democrats, who have for years had a largely warm and productive relationship with liberal-leaning Silicon Valley, the hearing represented a sharp break. Several members seized upon the chance to unleash on the company reps their simmering frustrations that the tech industry’s tools — so often pitched as the means for making the world a better place — had harmed their nominee, perhaps even fatally. Blumenthal highlighted widely shared posts on Twitter that incorrectly claimed that voters could cast ballots for Clinton simply by tweeting. “Do you know how many thought they voted but in fact were fooled?,” Blumenthal asked Edgett, who said he did not know.
5) No support for Honest Ads Act
Not a single one of the three tech giants would commit to supporting Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.)’s Honest Ads Act, which would require disclosures about political advertising on their platforms. All three have rolled out and touted work to independently address the issue of ads, following the introduction of the bill. “We certainly support the goals of the legislation and would like to work through the nuances to make it work for all of us,” Salgado said. Their answers prompted Klobuchar to draw attention to the lack of external oversight on these actions. “Just to clarify, while you are taking responsibility for a lot of what happened here, and trying to make some changes, there wouldn’t be an outside enforcer for any of these policies, right?”
Finally, James Lewis, an international cyber policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the revelation about Russian anti-Trump activity on social media post-election fits with typical Kremlin information warfare efforts.
“Their goal is to create confusion and dissent. The target is the U.S. and NATO, not any particular candidate. They just want chaos…”