Facebook and Donald Trump, two large, terrible sons of our broken society that truly deserve each other, slow-motion collided on Saturday when the president decided to lift wholesale a new line of defense over the ongoing Russian election scandal from the social media giant’s vice president of advertising Rob Goldman.
On Friday, the Department of Justice indicted 13 Russian nationals on a number of charges for alleged involvement with an 80-person-plus troll farm called the Internet Research Agency, which tried to flood US social media with disinformation and propaganda in what intelligence officials said looked a lot like an effort to help Trump’s campaign. Trump has been the subject of rampant speculation that he and/or elements of his campaign colluded with said Russians, who primarily ran the propaganda through Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram.
So the president spent much of Saturday quote-tweeting Goldman, an ad executive whose line of defense—that the Russians were more interested in seeding chaos than electing Trump, a statement seemingly designed to minimize Facebook’s responsibility for our current national situation—synergizes nicely with Trump’s now-familiar habit of latching on to anything with the faintest possibility of exonerating him.
Most of the coverage of Russian meddling involves their attempt to effect the outcome of the 2016 US election. I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal.
The majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election. We shared that fact, but very few outlets have covered it because it doesn’t align with the main media narrative of Tump and the election. https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/10/hard-questions-russian-ads-delivered-to-congress/ …
Hard Questions: Russian Ads Delivered to Congress | Facebook Newsroom
What was in the ads you shared with Congress? How many people saw them?
Goldman is also not an expert on Russia or intelligence, the company has long done performative flip-flopping on the Russia issue to avoid legislation that could affect its bottom line, and as media types immediately noted on Twitter, buying Facebook ads is only one of many things the indictment accuses the IRA of doing. He didn’t note the possibility the later ads were intended to seize on the upset created in the wake of the president’s election, or that tricks like fueling both sides of street protests tacitly benefited Trump by turning the dial on our broken democracy meter to 11.
Remember, the ads aren’t the entire issue. IRA-tied trolls posted organic content on FB. They created events. Ad spending is only a small portion of what happened around the 2016 election. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/964955496137535488 …
Your own press release says 44% of the ad impressions were before the election. The fact that they kept going to maximize the impact doesn’t diminish that spend. https://twitter.com/robjective/status/964680123885613056 …
Rob, apart from paid promotion, what can you tell us about the duration and intensity of overall Russian info operations on Fb & and Insta?
Can you bar chart the 126m impressions by month?
Mueller has them message testing starting in 2014. https://twitter.com/robjective/status/964680123885613056 …
Nick – Sincere question – more going on from the Russians than straight as purchases is what you are asking?
Without more information, it is hard to situate the paid advertising campaign — which as we far as we already knew was fairly small — against the broader backdrop, and how important the paid promotion was to the overall effort.
Facebook is trying to show it’s taking the Russia stuff seriously, but calling out reporters for missing the story on the same day your platform was shown to be the Kremlin-linked trolls’ favorite tool is an interesting approach https://twitter.com/Kantrowitz/status/964965357310984192 …
Human beings fucking up is part of being human. Overall, a good thing. If you are in near-term damage control mode, less so.
is this a fuckup? their biggest fear is being regulated. the head of the federal government thinks they just did him a favor.
What went unsaid in [Goldman’s] tweets is that there were thousands of posts shared on Facebook and other social networking sites, like Twitter, that were not ads, but still reached millions of potential voters. Facebook said that ads purchased by Russian sources reached 10 million users, but all posts from Russian accounts—including non-ads that were posted for free—reached as many as 126 million users.
As Goldman later conceded, it is beyond obvious the Russians in question tried to boost Trump:
No look, it wasn’t intended as that. Im just being objective. You made a good point but that doesn’t take away from the core of the argument (which Im not endorsing, not that my endorsements means anything anyway. Just joining the convo since I know more about it than most)
Thanks for the proof read. If only One could edit ones tweet. As to the substance: the Russian campaign was certainly in favor of Trump. The point is that the misinformation campaign is ongoing and must be addressed. Today, we saw Russian pro gun tweets re: Florida shooting.
Now, whether or not the IRA actually had any quantifiable impact on the election—as well as many of the more salacious question surrounding their involvement, like if the pee tape is real—remain other issues that in some cases may never be answered satisfactorily. Yet it’s still weird that the president chose one of those Russians’ alleged marks to defend himself, because people don’t really trust Facebook either, especially not when it comes to foreign meddling, and a lot of people are already more than a little suspicious about its how forthright it’s actually being about this whole mess.
BY: Tom McKay