Russia weaponized political advertising in 2016. That was just the beginning. | The Fact Checker
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Russia weaponized political advertising in 2016. That was just the beginning. | The Fact Checker


-Facebook’s purpose
was to connect people. -Then, you can browse around
and see who people’s friends are and just check out
people’s online identities. -Google’s was to
share information. -We have a tremendous ability
and responsibility to provide people
the right information. -Twitter’s, to encourage
public discourse. -Never before have we had
such access to that immediate information. -But, then, business models
evolved and platforms grew. -Now, we’re at 100,000 people, so, who knows
where we’re goin’ next? -Facebook, which announced today that it had signed up
its 500 millionth user. -So, are you gonna add me
as a friend? -The business world
is salivating over the possibility of
a public stock offering, an IPO. -Their research project
turned into a much-praised search engine. It is called Google. -Have you Googled her yet?
-Willow, she’s 17. -It’s a search engine. -Shares are up more than 1,700%
in those 12 years. -Many believe Jack Dorsey is the
intellectual successor to Jobs. -I think Twitter remains
the first draft of history, which is pretty important. -But then, unintended and
troubling consequences followed. -Representatives from Facebook,
Twitter, and Google. -Now facing a firestorm. -About Russia’s attempts
to meddle in the 2016 election. -Purchasing ads that reached
millions of Americans. -Designed to create divisions
on a whole range of topics, including immigration,
gun control, and race. -Fake accounts created by Moscow
reached more Americans than the total number
of US citizens who voted. -So, just to be clear,
you’re not going to sell, or share, any of
the information on Facebook? -What the terms say is just we’re not gonna share
people’s information. -But how are you going
to make money, if you won’t sell
or share people’s information? -The model’s advertising.
-In 2012 and 2013, social media usage
was skyrocketing. Facebook had a billion users. There were over 100 billion
Google searches per month. By 2014, the tech giants
had acquired smaller companies, including advertising
exchanges and services, like YouTube and Instagram. -So they became even more
central to our attention. And then, also,
they were creating new tools for advertisers so that advertisers
could reach people with even more precision
and even more targeting. -Those tools included services
like Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences
and Custom Audiences, both of which
launched in 2013. They allowed advertisers
to target individuals with tailor-made messaging. -Social media’s a very different
kind of animal. You can target it
at exactly who you want to. You can figure out what their
interests and biases might be, what race someone is,
what age group someone is, where they live, and you can
deliver exactly the message to those folks that is most
likely to persuade them. -You just enter the amount
of money that you’re willing to spend and we’ll make sure
to put those ads in front of the best candidates
to receive them, both in terms of
your targeting choices and Facebook’s own algorithm. Other platforms offer
the same capability: Google, LinkedIn,
Twitter, Snapchat. It’s become
the industry standard. -The platforms were able to
directly capitalize on the data consumers gave them in order
to help companies target those same people
with ads. -You can do that if you’re
selling a new energy drink or you can do that if you’re
trying to disrupt an election. The techniques are the same. -And that is exactly
what Russia did. They used digital tools
to try to influence an election. Jacob Shapiro is a professor
at Princeton University who wrote about trends
in foreign influence efforts in elections. -We define a foreign influence
effort as one state targeting another, on social media,
in a manner that is intended to appear organic
to the target state. So, for us, what was important
was not that the information
was fake or real. What was important to us is that
it was one state reaching out and trying to create content which looked like it
was coming from another state. -Shapiro found the Russians
started foreign influence efforts masked as digital campaigns
all over the world. Starting in 2014, a troll farm, known as the Internet
Research Agency, or the IRA, promoted propaganda
on social media in the US. -You know, you had
hundreds of people. They worked on different things:
financial offices. They had graphics offices.
They had engagement teams. And so, in a way, it looks like
any kinda startup anywhere in the world. -By 2016, they had started more than
20 campaigns in 13 countries. 40% of those campaigns
were on Facebook. Nearly 90% were on Twitter. They were on fake websites,
Reddit, WhatsApp, and Russian-controlled media; basically, anywhere that
digital content could be spread. -So there was a sort of
sophisticated understanding of who uses the platforms,
what they use them for, and what messages might resonate
best on those platforms. And then, how to use
the targeting capabilities of those platforms to test and hone messages
with greater effectiveness. All the same things
that a good marketer would do. -And, just as the IRA
had fully ramped up its efforts, Google and Facebook sharpened how precisely individual users
could be targeted. -The degree of precision
that was possible became basically ready
for primetime just as we were going into
the peak of the election season. -Russia didn’t just target
people on social media. Russian military intelligence,
often referred to as the GRU, tried to push propaganda
into the larger media ecosystem. What they would do is they
would plant a seed of a story. That story would be repeated
by other media properties would pick it up, so there would
be this like chain of citation. The GRU created fake think
tanks and alternative news sites to help plant false stories. They created fake online
accounts to author and amplify this content. -Instead of trying to get
a real sympathetic person to write your story for you, you can just create
a fake persona. -The GRU also
strategically leaked and hacked information
to WikiLeaks and direct-messaged journalists at opportune moments
of the 2016 campaign. -This just in to CNN:
Russian hackers managed to infiltrate
the computer network at the Democratic
National Committee. -We know Clinton’s dealing
with some new email leaks, her own campaign woes there, following the third dump,
really, of hacked emails. -You can’t separate propaganda
from the kind of infrastructure
that’s putting it out. So, social platforms are really
great for targeted, niche content, but, if you wanna
reach the entirety of a country, get all of a country talking
about a particular thing, this is where you start to see
the role of mainstream media in shaping the conversation
around those materials. -So the GRU used sensationalism
to engage traditional media, while the IRA targeted voters
on social media platforms. Effectively, they worked
toward the same goal, using different strategies. -The president-elect of
the United States of America, Donald Trump. -Ladies and gentlemen,
the president-elect of the United States,
Donald John Trump. -Blockbuster charges today
from the special counsel investigating
Russia’s election interference. -The indictment charges
12 Russian military officers by name for conspiring to interfere with
the 2016 presidential election. -What has Google done to make
sure this doesn’t happen again? -Our efforts have been pretty
successful, so far, Google, as a whole, through
both our election cycles, but it’s an area
where it’s never enough. -We didn’t do enough
to prevent these tools from being used
for harm as well. We didn’t take a broad enough
view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. -We found ourselves unprepared
and ill-equipped for the immensity
of the problems that we’ve acknowledged: abuse, harassment,
troll armies, propaganda, through bots
and human coordination, misinformation campaigns,
and divisive filter bubbles. -Facebook estimated around
126 million people may have seen content
from an IRA page. They also identified 170
Instagram accounts that posted 120,000
pieces of content during the 2016 campaign. Twitter announced it identified
3,814 IRA-controlled accounts and notified 1point4 million
people they may have been
in contact with one of them. Propaganda
articles were published on at least 142 alternative
media outlets. The social media companies
removed accounts that were being run
by foreign operatives. They built partnerships
with fact checkers and they instituted voluntary
policies to label political ads. But the Russian operations
didn’t stop there. -When the social media platforms
tried to start detecting it and start to crack down
on fake accounts, through 2018, you see a shift
in the Russian efforts towards lower-volume,
higher-quality content. -We see them making up
less content and, instead, using inauthentic means
to amplify domestic voices. -They’ve adopted the hashtags
which are already there. This is where the real soul
searching needs to happen in the West. Because, if there weren’t
American trolls, the Russian trolls wouldn’t
have anybody to pretend to be. And so, it’s people in our own
countries who are creating the environment and creating the kind
of vitriolic rhetoric which, then, foreign actors
can manipulate and which they can imitate. -What we’ve seen in military
planning documents coming out of Russia
is this idea that we’re gonna go after the internal coherence
of the enemy. -And so success for Russia
means undermining the most trusted
American institutions: the government,
the justice system, the media, however
and wherever possible. -We assess that foreign actors
will view the 2020 US elections as an opportunity
to advance their interests. -Nearly a billion dollars
has been spent on Facebook and Google political ads
in the US since May of 2018. Targeted advertising
is still offered on every major social platform. While tech companies have
made efforts at transparency and blocking
foreign interference, no new regulations or laws
have been implemented to govern digital political
advertising as a whole. -We need to assume
that these sorts of tactics are going to be with us,
essentially, forever. The responsibility to do better certainly lays
with the companies. To some extent,
it lays with the government. It also rests with all of us
to be more skeptical consumers of the information
that reaches us. -The Russians weaponized social
media in the 2016 election. Social media companies
and policymakers have tried to respond. The question is whether a new
startup, Russian or otherwise, will seek to exploit
new vulnerabilities in the 2020 election that have
not yet been identified or have not yet been addressed.

40 thoughts on “Russia weaponized political advertising in 2016. That was just the beginning. | The Fact Checker

  1. So russian marketing is superior to American marketing? If democrats had a good candidate, they wouldn't be threatened by the free flow of information. Where is the proof the DNC server was hacked by the GRU? It was never examined by the FBI.

  2. They blocked some accounts on social media yesterday for pointing out that "Impeachment" is a phony pony-show. Remember the Synagogue shooting? Maybe the kid in California went ballistic about that?

  3. Someone should out Tucker Carlson. He’s the worst about spreading disinformation. He tells people he’s one of “us” but he’s an heir to the Swanson fortune who’s only in it for tax breaks. I don’t watch fox but the sounds bites I see are nauseating. I don’t know how fox gets away with half of what they’re telling people. It’s 99% bs with a counter opinion once in a while.

  4. Social Media Giants: [ban inconvenient truths; promote vapid nonsense & outright lies favoring their business & ideology] "wHY IS rusSiA WEaPonIZInG mEDIa!?"

  5. The NATO countries hackers behind the attacks on Russia also work for the political institutions of Ukraine, Pribaltic countries and elsewhere to doubt the situation, to bring this situation into doubt. The hacking attacks have been carried out from the servers of NATO countries intelligence and other political institutions, to influence the course of political events in the country. Globalists do not want the pro-American authorities to succeed. But it is also not clear where CIA/FBI gets its information about Hillary servers from, in particular from Russian sources. These facts need to be clarified.

    The main targets of these hacking attacks have been the Russian government officials. The US hacking attacks have been aimed at interfering in the internal affairs of the Ukrainian government.

    But we have to be careful, as we have already seen.

    Russia can respond with the response of its intelligence agencies: it can ban US

  6. There trying to exploit freedom of speech and expression while telling there pples this is why its a bad idea to have unlimited liberty and freedom and in some cases there right but there doing it to antagonize the western nations much like North Korea does with ICBM and China with intellectual property

  7. Russian trolls? How about Russian Patriots, you western mozerfukers? Pissing me off when fukin western media start provoking Russia or spreading total bullshit about Russia. And i am not alone… You wanted it, you got it – the Russian media bear is awakened. Too late to complain, western morons.

  8. what we have here are failures for political expectations to be met, and various ways which they are attempted to be governed. the notion that a social media consensus needs to be monitored is really defined by how much trust is placed in the monitoring. we have a thoroughly corrupt polluted subversive democrat media obsessed with federal power and control being awarded to their institutional egos and agency excuses, and they are going to be explaining then enforcing the rules ? plz. russia has plenty of 'meddling' issues that have a context of parity which gets processed accurately and appropriately without the post trying to define standards of fairness risk or security.

  9. i bet if the democratic candidate wins, then the washington post will suddenly forget all about these claims

    and im not even russian, its just what i really think is true

  10. oh, I know, I know! …because the enemy is behind it. Read your Bible. Pray. Read it more. Pray. All praise and glory to YHWH.

  11. It is sad that Journalists should be gathering all the facts, not just the ones that support their ideology and political view. Journalists should be giving the truth unbiasedly. If people are given the truth good will prevail. When false information is given wickedness grows. Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

  12. You people really are dumb…
    Even stupider than Russians were when they believed Soviet propaganda.
    Congratulations America, you now have better propaganda than Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union!
    Goebbels must be smiling from hell.

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