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Facebook Says 10 Million US Users Saw Russia-linked Ads (reuters.com) 252

Some 10 million people in the United States saw politically divisive ads on Facebook that the company said were purchased in Russia in the months before and after last year's U.S. presidential election, Facebook said on Monday. From a report: Facebook, which had not previously given such an estimate, said in a statement that it used modeling to estimate how many people saw at least one of the 3,000 ads. It also said that 44 percent of the ads were seen before the November 2016 election and 56 percent were seen afterward. The ads have sparked anger toward Facebook and, within the United States, toward Russia since the world's largest social network disclosed their existence last month. Moscow has denied involvement with the ads.
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Facebook Says 10 Million US Users Saw Russia-linked Ads

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  • FFS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Neo-Rio-101 ( 700494 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @01:07AM (#55299009)

    Anybody can post politically divisive content on Facebook.
    That's the whole point!

    • Re:FFS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @02:16AM (#55299239)

      >Anybody can post politically divisive content on Facebook.
      >That's the whole point!

      Not really - the whole point of Facebook is ads. Company pages are ads. People's pages are ads for the people. Facebook services are mostly for specifically targeting ads. The games are ads, the fake accounts are ads, even the settings exist to make you more receptive to the ads.

      Anyway - in this particular case, Russia's proxies purchased ads during the compaign season, in highly targeted ways, to affect the outcome of the election. 10 million is like 1/35 people in the US, and a much larger portion of the voting public, and an even larger portion of the key battleground voting public.

      This is akin to Russia buying 1000-foot-tall billboards above every voting place in battleground states, and using it to tell the most vicious, manipulative lies they cared to tell, to sew chaos and hatred into the public.

      It's something more than normal provocateur work.

      • Not doubting that it's more than provocateur work,.... but basically anyone with an axe to grind can spend heaps on influencing elections.
        Even if that person is a millionaire living in a yurt in middle of nowhere Mongolia with an internet connection.

        Presumably money talks, and as long as it doesn't upset Zuck and his shareholders too much - he can do what he wants.

        • Re:FFS (Score:4, Insightful)

          by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @02:57AM (#55299337) Homepage

          How about, the lead addled ignorant zombie bots of America will immediately obey any advertisement upon view. The only real measure of that would be how many fell trap to click bait and clicked. The world, unfortunately is a breeding ground for annoying click bait and being an English speaker, the most annoying country is the US, a click bait market in every area of media, from small to large, to compete they join in from all over the world.

          It was really pathetic and shameful when the US government joined in on the click bait stories but hopefully they will realise how unproductive it really is (pissing people off with unproductive clicks waste their time and annoys them, hence you have paid to do damage to your image and brand).

          Think how many ads a day, an internet user is subject to many ads on nearly every single page view. The number boogles the mind, definitely in the thousands and done over a year in the hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions. One ad becomes near invisible, hundreds are required to force awareness and profound annoyance, unless on that rare occasion they are actually interested and that will most likely occur when the ad aligns with content ie food ad with food content.

          If they are looking for that political content, they will find it, if they are not, shoving it in their face will just annoy them. The person who decide a large percentage of American citizens deplorables, this to be repeated by the internet, hundreds of millions of times ever since, they were by far the most divisive in US history since the civil war.

      • Not really - the whole point of Facebook is ads

        Nope, that's the visible part. The whole point of Facebook is psychological manipulation. The site exists both to collect the data to build psychological profiles that can be used for manipulation and to deliver the messages designed for such manipulation. Advertising is simply the most benign use for this.

      • This is akin to Russia buying 1000-foot-tall billboards above every voting place in battleground states

        Not quite. The $100,000 Facebook "Russian" ads pales in comparison to the nearly 2 billion spent on the Presidential Election (Nearly 1.5 billion in favor of Clinton).

        What the means is that Clinton's marketing was fucked up. And the Democrats keep on this narrative, it makes them look even worse than before.

      • This is akin to Russia buying 1000-foot-tall billboards above every voting place in battleground states

        The two locations which have thus far been revealed to have been targeted by the ads (Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD) are hardly battleground states. Clinton won Maryland by a 2:1 margin (26%). Trump won Missouri by a 3:2 margin (19%).

        I could see this as being part of some concerted (but underfunded - a nation state can drop a few $million without blinking) effort to sow chaos and discord in the U.S.

    • It's actually illegal for a foreign entity to buy election ads in America - at least on TV and in print.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    but we're supposed to believe $50k worth of ads on Facebook had an effect on the election?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      But Putin spend more wisely.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      If the election were closer, yes it could have made a difference. But the real point is that a foreign government attempted to influence our elections through clandestine methods and plans. The success of their plans is secondary. They also attempted to hack voting machines, I'd note.

      • by king neckbeard ( 1801738 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @02:03AM (#55299199)
        So, just like every other election, except maybe some updates on the methodology. But objectively far more important is the DOMESTIC influence on our election from corporations and oligarchs, which is more effective at altering policy in a way that harms the general public, and resulted in a candidate of so poor quality, hindering her policy choices so much, that she lost to a game show host with a complete lack of inhibition.
      • Can you show us even just a single piece of actual evidence of this that isn't some news article? Just one piece.

    • Where does the $50k number come from? It's not like these are ads paid for by a cheque signed by Mr V. Putin Esq. Money laundering is a growth industry in Russia, and creating US organisations that can pay for things using money from Russia isn't exactly hard.
  • Facebook admitted to promoting pro-Hillary and suppressing pro-Trump stories/outlets. Where is the investigation and media attention for that?
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Even if your claim were true (cough), it's not illegal for a US corporation to give a political opinion (for good or bad).

      • What is legal has virtually nothing to do with what are concerns should be. Super PACs are legal, but they should be burned to the ground. Plus, Facebook's power and influence are on arguably somewhere near on par with a nation state.
    • Facebook admitted to promoting pro-Hillary and suppressing pro-Trump stories/outlets. Where is the investigation and media attention for that?

      Comey admits to leaking classified information, gets a sweet book deal [politico.com]. Reality winner leaks classified information, sits in jail denied bond [wikipedia.org].

      The DNC siphoned $60 million from down-ballot elections into Hillary's campaign to fight Sanders, which would appear to be a violation of FEC rules on its face(*).

      Susan Rice unmasked wiretaps of Trump and advisors without a warrant, which was then leaked to the press.

      Bill Clinton had an "on the tarmac" meeting with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch while Lynch was i

    • Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @01:27AM (#55299069)
    The only ameliorating factor in this is how millions of those ads were probably never seen by a human but instead rendered onto an offscreen bitmap in video memory by a fraudulent ad bot designed to extract the most funds out of unsuspecting advertisers, in this case Russia but usually clueless Madison Ave. companies.
  • by Guillermito ( 187510 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @01:42AM (#55299127) Homepage
    The total cost of a presidential campaign is estimated to be around $2.65 billion. So now we are supposed to believe that the $100K spent on Facebook ads by Russia (56% of which were only seen *after* the election) were a key factor that determined the outcome? This is a total non issue but it will be hammered non stop for months by the traditional media simply because they are dying and will seek any opportunity to make the government regulate Facebook, Google and the other digital companies that are killing them.
    • If it is not enough to show that Russia stole the elections it is enough to demonstrate their evil intent. Now the official evil intent includes the very general 'sowing discord'. That means that they support activism of all sorts and activism becomes suspect. It means that groups like Black Lives Matters are reduced to russian stooges, the way Wikileaks was reduced to a stooge, the way a lot of alternative sites now are reduced to stooges that have to be slammed down (Google and propaganda sites like http: [securingdemocracy.org]

    • by bazorg ( 911295 )

      It's a fair comment, but I'm not sure it gets us any closer to an answer.
      Perhaps the 2.65Bn represent a very expensive way to put more noise on TV, or to get many phone calls out to people who may or may not be really engaged, while on FB millions of very cheap interactions day in and day out will support existing search bubbles and have an important effect.

      Just look at how people write about Hillary being a symbol of everything that's bad about Washington. Others repeating that the EU commission are unelec

  • Given that this is Facebook we're talking about, plus their bungled attempts so far to save face over their part in this debacle, this estimate seems egregiously low, by a factor of 5 to 8 or more.

  • This is just the Left's dolchstoss-legende being solidified. Trump didn't win, it was a stab in the back by TEH ROOSHINS. (Seriously, "blame the foreigner"? It's like the oldest trick in the book) In years to come, this will become a bedrock belief of the Left, that all these bad things happened because dirty foreigners made them happen. I can understand why! Having to come to terms with the fact that ordinary Americans are hurting would be emotionally devastating. It would be having a heel realization [tvtropes.org]

  • And 9 million, 999 thousand people will yell "FAKE NEWS!". Overcoming set expectation of outcomes is a loosing business.

  • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @03:51AM (#55299465)
    From the article: "Still, he said it was possible Facebook would find more Russia-linked U.S. ads as it continues to investigate". Also the value was the result of a simulation. Without details they might as well as have said "we used a dart board to get that number". So if Facebook says 10 million viewers saw the advertising there is no way of knowing if that is even the right order of magnitude.

    Given that Facebook is desperately attempting damage control how likely is it that this number is on the extremely low side? Remember FB claims to be good at spreading information, and apparently disinformation as well, so why not give it a shot as part of their defensive strategy. They have a lot of plausible deniability, so they might as well push their own "alternate facts".

    The best part of all of this is that FB is now saying that they don't have much impact on their viewers. "The latest company statement said that about 25 percent of the ads were never shown to anyone". Is that what they tell their advertising clients? That a quarter of their advertising dollars are a complete waste of money? It seems extremely unlikely that is the story they use when they are talking to Wall Street or any organization that is trying to use FB as part of their online strategy.

    Is it possible that no one will connect the dots between FB claiming to be a great place to get out your message vs how they didn't have any impact when it came to election tampering?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      I expect Facebook's ad reach models are pretty good. Advertising is their primary business, after all. If it wasn't good the advertisers would quickly call bullshit.

      It's not hard to calculate. They put in a bid, you look at other bids for the same demographics and determine how often their ads would win the eyeball auction.

  • Or say tried to do change another countries government?
    • The US has also rolled tanks into other countries. Doesn't change the fact that it's indisputable (among Americans) that you don't let other countries invade. It's not a fucking abstract moral argument - it's a war. A psy-ops war, but a war. The gv't defendingthe US in a war is a thing.

      • Bullshit.

        There's no evidence that the Russian government did a damn thing. We have seen absolutely zero evidence supporting the supposition by the DNC that Russia hacked the election, which is an absurd notion, with all claims so far publicly made debunked. Even the original claim by Obama was found to be inaccurate. Only 3 agencies signed off on the claim that Russia hacked the election, not all, and certainly not 17. Of those 3 only one gave it high confidence contrary to Obama's claims and that agenc

        • Wow, that misses the point entirely. Look at the thread context. OP made the presumption that Russia intervened. Everything,including my response, in this thread is based on that.

  • by HermMunster ( 972336 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @05:39AM (#55299685)

    Russians are entitled to place ads even politically derisive ones.

    No one has proven these were placed by the Russian government, which also isnt illegal.

    Zuckerberg is a Democrat and as someone with political aspirations he has every reason to follow the DNC narrative.

    This is a win all round for Facebook as they can say that $100,000 nets you effective influence over 10,000,000 people.

    • "No one has proven these were placed by MY Russian government, which also isn't illegal."

      Fixed that for you!

      • No. What I wrote was accurate.

        You simply participated in McCarthyism tactics.

      • Fixed that for you!

        No, you spent a moment typing some juvenile snark in order to avoid admitting he's actually correct, because addressing the fact that he's correct takes some of the fun out of your preferred narrative.

  • 3000 ads got 10,000,000 "impressions" - just think what our marketing department can do for YOU!

  • by p51d007 ( 656414 )
    Oh no! Russian "ads" on Fakebook....so?
  • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:12AM (#55300439) Homepage

    From the numbers, that pretty much has to be 10 million impressions, not 10 million people. I.e., the ads were shown 10 million times, to some (smaller) number of people.

    I don't live in the US, but answer me this: During election season, how many ads did eacy person see? Hundreds? Possibly thousands? Multiply by a population of 300,000,000, and we are talking on the order of hundreds of billions of ad impressions. Against which, 10 million is not even a drop in a bucket.

    This Russian fetish never was relevant. The more information that emerges, the more obvious this is. Some people just cannot accept that Hillary! was an absolutely crappy candidate, and that half the country voted for "anybody else".

    The D's need to get over it already, and maybe put up a decent candidate next time. But they won't, they'll nominate someone like Pelosi. Trump is very likely to win again in 2020.

  • She lost (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:26AM (#55300535)

    Just accept it. However bad Trump was as a candidate, Clinton was worse.

    She had all the MSM, Hollywood, the universities, etc. etc, on her side. Even big business and a fair slice of the Republican poobahs who hated Trump were on her side. She still lost.

    Nobody needed any "fake news" (except you, but it didn't work); the real news was bad enough. "First old white woman" just wasn't enough to get her there. She lost. Period.

    Going ballistic, acting even more insane, none of this is helping you. This is in fact why he won.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"