Talk­ing points

The 2016 elec­tion: How Rus­sia used Face­book

The Week (US) - - 16 News -

“As if we needed more ev­i­dence that Face­book in­flu­enced the elec­tion,” said Chris­tine Emba in Wash­ing­tonPost.com. Last week, the so­cial me­dia giant ad­mit­ted that it had sold more than $100,000 in ads be­tween 2015 and 2016 “to a Krem­lin-linked ‘troll farm’ seek­ing to in­flu­ence U.S. vot­ers.” The ads—which Face­book re­fused to re­lease—con­tained di­vi­sive mes­sages on hot-but­ton top­ics “from LGBT mat­ters to race is­sues to im­mi­gra­tion.” Rus­sia’s elec­tion med­dling didn’t end there, said Scott Shane in The New York Times. An in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Times re­veals that the Krem­lin de­ployed “a le­gion of Rus­sian-con­trolled im­pos­tors” to tar­get Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton. These im­pos­tors set up so­phis­ti­cated fake Face­book ac­counts, pre­tend­ing to be or­di­nary Amer­i­cans with names like “Melvin Redick” and “Kather­ine Ful­ton,” and used those ac­counts to post thou­sands of anti-Clin­ton at­tacks, which Rus­sian bots and real peo­ple then passed along on Face­book and Twit­ter. These ef­forts rep­re­sent “an un­prece­dented for­eign in­ter­ven­tion in Amer­i­can democ­racy.”

By us­ing Face­book’s so­phis­ti­cated al­go­rithms and pre­ci­sion ad tar­get­ing, said Donie O’Sul­li­van in CNN.com, Rus­sia’s troll cam­paign “could have reached mil­lions of Amer­i­can vot­ers.” Want to tar­get women ages 22 to 45 or African-Amer­i­cans who live in a swing state like Wis­con­sin, and give them rea­sons not to vote for Clin­ton? For just $1,000 a day, a Rus­sian troll farm could reach up to 35,000 of them. Another $1,000 could pro­vide mo­ti­vat­ing pro­pa­ganda to that num­ber of pos­si­ble Don­ald Trump vot­ers.

Rus­sia’s in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion was an out­ra­geous act of “in­for­ma­tion war­fare,” said Fred Ka­plan in Slate.com. We have to get bet­ter at de­fend­ing our­selves—start­ing by forc­ing Face­book and Twit­ter to de­mand real hu­man IDs, so that a Rus­sian troll can’t pre­tend “to be a house­wife in Ohio.” It’s also time to ask some “hard ques­tions,” said Will Bunch in Philly.com. Did Krem­lin trolls tip the elec­tion to Trump? Why did some Democrats in North Carolina and other swing states find when they went to the polls they couldn’t vote, be­cause poll records were mys­te­ri­ously al­tered? In Wis­con­sin, don’t forget, Trump won by only 22,748 votes. These ques­tions de­mand an­swers—and yet the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion seems de­ter­mined to look the other way. It’s as if they “don’t re­ally want to know whether Moscow’s in­ter­fer­ence was so great that it ac­tu­ally de­cided the race.”

Spread­ing Rus­sian pro­pa­ganda

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