ICYMI: Facebook Has Been Drawn Into The Russian Collusion Saga

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Sep 21, 2017 6:21 PM
ICYMI: Facebook Has Been Drawn Into The Russian Collusion Saga

On September 6, The Washington Post reported that Facebook had become an agent of the Russians. Okay—not really, but the bar has been set so low by the Left regarding this whole collusion hysteria that the social media site might as well be considered an enemy agent by progressives. This all stems from the ongoing investigations into Russian activities during the 2016 election. The Left thinks that Donald Trump’s associates colluded with the Kremlin to tilt the election. There has been zero evidence to suggest such activity occurred. We’ve had a lot of updates, none of which concluded that there was any illegal activity or evidence of collusion. The story has been so saturated with nothing burger updates that no one, but Democrats care about. No one cares about Russia, but alas—here we go again. The social media site received $100,000 from a Russian “troll-farm” to place ads during the election. Most of the ads were reportedly lost, according to Facebook. The Post added that it could rehash the conspiracy theory that Americans helped coordinate Russian activity.  Yet, those close to Facebook’s internal review noted that there’s no way to know if these ads were part of any coordinative campaign (via WaPo):

Representatives of Facebook told congressional investigators Wednesday that the social network has discovered that it sold ads during the U.S. presidential campaign to a shadowy Russian company seeking to target voters, according to several people familiar with the company’s findings.

Facebook officials reported that they traced the ad sales, totaling $100,000, to a Russian “troll farm” with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda, these people said.

A small portion of the ads, which began in the summer of 2015, directly named Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the people said, although they declined to say which candidate the ads favored.

Most of the ads, according to a blog post published late Wednesday by Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, “appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”

The acknowledgment by Facebook comes as congressional investigators and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III are probing Russian interference in the U.S. election, including allegations that the Kremlin may have coordinated with the Trump campaign.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded in January that Russia had interfered in the U.S. election to help elect Trump, including by using paid social media trolls to spread fake news intended to influence public opinion.

Even though the ad spending from Russia is tiny relative to overall campaign costs, the report from Facebook that a Russian firm was able to target political messages is likely to fuel pointed questions from investigators about whether the Russians received guidance from people in the United States — a question some Democrats have been asking for months.

[…]

An official familiar with Facebook’s internal investigation said the company does not have the ability to determine whether the ads it sold represented any sort of coordination.

It be noted that the U.S. intelligence community (17 agencies) did not uniformly sign off that Russia interfered in our election; something that then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had to clear up during his testimony to Congress.

Last week, The Post reported that The Hill was a bit disconcerted that the social media giant was not being fully transparent: 

House and Senate investigators have grown increasingly concerned that Facebook is withholding key information that could illuminate the shape and extent of a Russian propaganda campaign aimed at tilting the U.S. presidential election, according to people familiar with the probe.

Among the information Capitol Hill investigators are seeking is the full internal draft report from an inquiry the company conducted this spring into Russian election meddling but did not release at the time, said these people who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters under investigation.

[…]

Investigators believe the company has not fully examined all potential ways that Russians could have manipulated Facebook’s sprawling social media platform.

Now, under pressure, Facebook has agreed to turn over information on some 3,000 ads to the Senate and House Committees that were linked back to the Russians (via NYT):

Under growing pressure from Congress and the public to reveal more about the spread of covert Russian propaganda on Facebook, the company said on Thursday that it was turning over more than 3,000 Russia-linked ads to the Senate and House intelligence committees. The two panels are investigating the Kremlin’s influence operation on the 2016 presidential election.

The high-profile announcement came after Facebook spent two weeks on the defensive amid calls for greater transparency about 470 Russia-linked accounts the company took down after they had promoted inflammatory messages on divisive issues. Facebook had previously shown Congressional staffers a sample of the ads, some of which attacked Hillary Clinton or praised Donald J. Trump, but had not shared the entire collection.

Facebook’s admission on Sept. 6 that Russian agents covertly bought ads on the site during last year’s presidential campaign has brought intense scrutiny on the social network, Twitter, entangling both companies in the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, and raising the possibility of future regulation of political advertising on their platforms.

Congressional Democrats this week asked the Federal Election Commission to advise on ways to prevent foreign influence on American elections, including possible new laws or regulations.

Twitter, which has kept a low profile since Facebook’s disclosure of the Russian intrusion, said it will brief the Senate Intelligence Committee next Wednesday behind closed doors.

In a statement, Twitter did not address illicit Russian activity on its platform but said it “deeply respects the integrity of the election process, a cornerstone of all democracies” and vowed to “continue to strengthen our platform against bots and other forms of manipulation.”

You know the drill. It’s a wait-and-see game and if history repeats itself again, as it has on this story, there will be no smoking gun here. So far, Russia has been a major crutch for liberal distress over their 2016 loss. Hillary was so qualified, how could she have lost? Well, maybe Trump colluded with the Russians. It’s a sad pathetic spectacle. I’m willing to revisit this should something solid come from this investigation into Russia, but I doubt it. It’ll be another ride on the merry-go-round, with the media feeding this to an electorate that simply couldn’t care less.

It also doesn’t help, regarding perception, that some in the Democratic Party have gone nutbar factor six on this issue. This week, on CNN’s New Day, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) said that she wanted a 9/11 Commission-style review of Russian activity during the 2016 election, noting that this body could look into how we were hacked. This wasn’t a hack. The Russians did not mess with vote tallies (via Free Beacon):


"What a travesty of what we are learning with Facebook and these Russian troll farms that were able to advertise on Facebook," [CNN’s Alisyn] Camerota said. "What are you going to do about this?"

"Sen. Lindsey Graham and I have a bipartisan bill to do deep dive, a 9/11 style commission, that will look into how were we hacked?" Gillibrand said. "What were our cyber vulnerabilities, what are our cyber vulnerabilities today, and what can we do to prevent another type of interference in the '18 election?"

[…]

They're not above the law," she said. "And it is illegal for foreign countries to undermine or participate in our elections, so buying those Facebook ads is illegal. So what we need is more disclosure, more accountability, more transparency. But they have a role to play. We need to have more accountability by the next election."

Yeah, the Department of Homeland Security noticed no spikes in malicious cyber activity that would suggest we were under cyber attack on election night. We would have known and under this White House with the leaks—we would have definitely known. When Green Party candidate Jill Stein decided to push for a recount effort in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the Times reported this—speaking to Gillibrand’s cyber talk:

The administration, in its statement, confirmed reports from the Department of Homeland Security and intelligence officials that they did not see “any increased level of malicious cyberactivity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on Election Day.”

The administration said it remained “confident in the overall integrity of electoral infrastructure, a confidence that was borne out.” It added: “As a result, we believe our elections were free and fair from a cybersecurity perspective.”

Stein’s recounts were all unsuccessful but she did raise more money for this clown show than for her entire 2016 campaign.