The 2016 election: How Russia used Facebook
“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.”