Facebook: Where Russians go to ratf*ck elections
Well, today has seen a lot of Facebook/Russia stories.
First was Politico's story that Russian-funded ads supported Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, and Donald Trump.
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was the beneficiary of at least one of the Russian-bought political ads on Facebook that federal government officials suspect were intended to influence the 2016 election.
Other advertisements paid for by shadowy Russian buyers criticized Hillary Clinton and promoted Donald Trump. Some backed Bernie Sanders and his platform even after his presidential campaign had ended, according to a person with knowledge of the ads.
The pro-Stein ad came late in the political campaign and pushed her candidacy for president, this person said.
“Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein,” the ad reads. “Trust me. It’s not a wasted vote. … The only way to take our country back is to stop voting for the corporations and banks that own us. #GrowaSpineVoteJillStein.”
Then there's the Daily Banter story where Russians impersonated real American Muslims to stir chaos:
The Facebook group United Muslims of America was neither united, Muslim, nor American.
Instead, sources familiar with the group tell The Daily Beast, it was an imposter account on the world’s largest social network that’s been traced back to the Russian government.
Using the account as a front to reach American Muslims and their allies, the Russians pushed memes that claimed Hillary Clinton admitted the U.S. “created, funded and armed” al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State; claimed that John McCain was ISIS’ true founder; whitewashed blood-drenched dictator Moammar Gadhafi and praised him for not having a “Rothschild-owned central bank”; and falsely alleged Osama bin Laden was a “CIA agent.”
We're not done yet! CNN has a story that Russians bought a Black Lives Matter ad targeting Baltimore and Ferguson.
At least one of the Facebook ads bought by Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign referenced Black Lives Matter and was specifically targeted to reach audiences in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, sources with knowledge of the ads told CNN.
Ferguson and Baltimore had gained widespread attention for the large and violent protests over police shootings of black men. The decision to target the ad in those two cities offers the first look at how accounts linked to the Russian government-affiliated troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency used geographically targeted advertising to sow political chaos in the United States, the sources said.
And there we have it. Look at the end to the above paragraph. The Russia troll farm was aiming at nothing less than sowing chaos in the American electoral system. It's goal was to a) elect Donald Trump, and b) do so by sowing such discord that people would stay home, disgusted at the choices on offer. They knew full well that liberals and liberal-leaners tend to give up in disgust much more than GOP voters, who will come out no matter what.
I don't think I'm exaggerating that this is close to an act of war. A foreign government, deploying asymmetrical weapons, interfered in the conduct of our election, targeting voters with propaganda and false narratives. In the bad old days of the CIA driving around foreign cities with trunks full of cash to hand out to buy votes, those on the left would raise a hue and cry. Now? Partisans of Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders are either silent, or actively mock the Russia allegations.
Russia is, for all its size, a puny state. Its economy is no different than that of Nigeria's, reliant on oil exports. If the US and the EU ever did put maximum sanctions on Russia, the country would collapse. It can't compete with the West economically or militarily. Its only weapons are akin to those of a terrorist's: use guerilla tactics and attack enemies at their weak spot. Any democracy's weak spot is in its elections. And twenty years of GOP malfeasance at the federal, state, and local level made those attacks much easier.
The fact that all these stories are now coming out is an indication that Facebook and other social media are getting ahead of what promise to be devastating revelations. They don't want to be seen as handmaidens to a foreign autocrat. No doubt Robert Mueller is combing through the subpoenaed Facebook records, and Mark Zuckerberg wants to be seen as being onside.
What the past year has shown is that our democracy has always operated on the honor system. We honor the unwritten compacts which say that political opponents will operate and compete in good faith, without seeking aid from the outside. Those compacts are now dust. How we rebuild what is now an obviously broken system will be the great work of the next few years. Unless we want to splinter as a nation, it's a task we have to complete.
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