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Facebook Says 126 Million Americans May Have Seen Russia-Linked Political Posts (reuters.com) 370

Facebook said on Monday that Russia-based operatives published about 80,000 posts on the social network over a two-year period in an effort to sway U.S. politics and that about 126 million Americans may have seen the posts during that time. Reuters reports: Facebook's latest data on the Russia-linked posts - possibly reaching around half of the U.S. population of voting age - far exceeds the company's previous disclosures. It was included in written testimony provided to U.S. lawmakers, and seen by Reuters, ahead of key hearings with social media and technology companies about Russian meddling in elections on Capitol Hill this week. Twitter separately has found 2,752 accounts linked to Russian operatives, a source familiar with the company's written testimony said. That estimate is up from a tally of 201 accounts that Twitter reported in September. Google, owned by Alphabet, said in a statement on Monday it had found $4,700 in Russia-linked ad spending during the 2016 U.S. election cycle, and that it would build a database of election ads. Facebook's general counsel, Colin Stretch, said in the written testimony that the 80,000 posts from Russia's Internet Research Agency were a tiny fraction of content on Facebook, equal to one out of 23,000 posts.
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Facebook Says 126 Million Americans May Have Seen Russia-Linked Political Posts

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I am beyond sick and tired of Slashdot trying to push the "Russians influenced the election!" BS that the left has been pushing. It's fake. It never happened.

    Who cares if they bought ads on Facebook? Does it matter? Does anyone seriously think people voted for Trump because they saw ads from Russians?!

    The thing that caused Hillary to lose more than anything else is likely her shady dealings involving her email server and the FBI "investigation" into it. An investigation that could still be restarted as it's

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      With the many millions of dollars spent by both parties on ads that are basically in our faces 24/7 for over a year prior to the election, Anyone thinks a few facebook ads would actually change someone's vote is a complete moron.

      Even with that, nobody has been able to demonstrate that any specific ads would influence a voter one way or the other. The fact that the media won't show us these ads tells me that the content of the ads doesn't support the spin.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dread_ed ( 260158 )

      Apologies in advance for any offense you or anyone else takes from reading this.

      I don't want to hear "The Russians influenced the election" and I don't want to hear "The Russians didn't influence the election." Nor do I want to hear about how many people, potentially, figuratively, or exaggeratedly could have might possibly seen a snippet of an ad or post by a "Russian operative."

      I don't want to hear your commentary, Zuckerberg's inane prattling, any political pundit's repackaging of this bullshit, and cer

      • by thelandp ( 632129 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2017 @12:47PM (#55464659)
        > SHOW ME THE FUCKING ADS AND COMMENTS YOU SAY ARE FROM RUSSIANS.

        > Really. Is it that hard?

        No, it's not. There are some examples out there. So if you're asking for information, here you go:

        https://www.nytimes.com/2017/1... [nytimes.com]

        http://www.philly.com/philly/n... [philly.com]

        What is that hard though, is to understand why your comment got modded insightful.

        If you're demanding no less than the full set of ads involved: it's natural to expect the tech firms involved would hold back, because the whole thing is very embarrassing for them.

        > and certainly not any journalist's outright lies about this

        Aha, herein lies a big part of the problem. Trump has convinced you that "the media" is the enemy, it's all fake news. That is one of the steps that autocrats take, to discredit a free and open press, to remove one of the points of accountability on them.

    • I am beyond sick and tired of Slashdot trying to push the "Russians influenced the election!" BS that the left has been pushing. It's fake. It never happened.

      I on the other hand look forward to reading these stories. Specifically the comments and heated thoughtless debates about them. Thankyou.

  • was that it wasn't covered by existing disclosure rules. So folks could pour money into it with impunity.
    • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @08:45PM (#55461099)
      Disclosure rules? WTF? The filter should be on the receiving end. The Russians have their agenda (and it's more about trolling us than overpowering us), and the media has their agenda (which is more about indoctrinating us than educating us). F them all, it's not like any are trustworthy anymore. It's the info that matters, not the source.

      Anyone who gets their information from the Bookface, or sucking at the media's (left or right) teat, deserves what they get. People need to take personal responsibility for educating themselves with diverse viewpoints, and using that to create a worldview based on knowledge and belief informed by root principles. If you can't filter disinformation from your inputs, you're doing it wrong.
      • by iserlohn ( 49556 )

        That handy 'both sides' arguments once again proves its usefulness.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Anyone who gets their information from the Bookface, or sucking at the media's (left or right) teat, deserves what they get.

        What would you suggest as an alternative? If you rule out the media and social media, how do you get your news?

        I can agree with you on social media, but what is a better source than professional journalists?

        • Youtube.

          I'm not saying that's what the GP is suggesting, but most times these days when someone says 'do your own research' what they mean is 'watch the same poor quality Youtube videos as me'. That's certainly where my friend found the conclusive evidence that the earth is flat.

        • Anyone who gets their information from the Bookface, or sucking at the media's (left or right) teat, deserves what they get.

          What would you suggest as an alternative? If you rule out the media and social media, how do you get your news?

          I can agree with you on social media, but what is a better source than professional journalists?

          I dunno. I get my news from ABC, NBC, CBS, NPR, BBC and Breitbart. I can see some folks getting twitchy about the first 5 sources, and others freaking about the last one.

          Fox News is a comedy channel, so not on my source list. I get no news from Facebook at all ever. Of course I'm only there because I have to be on the FB dungheap. Guess that's my cross to bear.

          Some people ask why such an eclectic mix of news sources?

          There is a lot of news happening in the world. No one group can cover it all. Just

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            They sound fine, although the GP would dismiss them as "media" I guess, except for Breitbart. While the others at least attempt to be fair and publish corrections, Brietbart is just pure fake news. Not an alternative point of view or coverage of stuff that the others miss, just pure made up bullshit.

            I managed to ween my friends off Facebook and on to WattsApp. Lesser of two evils perhaps, but I don't use Facebook any more.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @09:04PM (#55461163)

      So folks could pour money into it with impunity.

      Indeed. If we let people go around speaking with impunity, we will lose our freedom.

    • If you listen to Facebook long enough, you'll find that they claim to have over 8 billion members... 126 million "views" sounds like another number they feed their paying advertisers.

  • Oh no (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 30, 2017 @08:05PM (#55460909)

    My virgin eyes!!!! Why Facebook why didn't you protect me from the interwebs. I so was going to vote for Hillary until those adds showed me that Trump was a kind hearted, attractive, beautiful haired, honest, intelligent, and amazing guy. I was duped.

    • Re: Oh no (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 30, 2017 @08:11PM (#55460941)

      You can always tell old guard Slashdot folks from new Slashdot folks as to whether they believe FUD is a real force at play in people's minds. It wasn't positive ads for Trump. It was FUD.

  • by Narcocide ( 102829 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @08:08PM (#55460925) Homepage

    The real question is how many unique views were served for each ad and how many ads there were total. 126 million people seeing one silly racist political meme one random afternoon is nothing to panic about, and certainly they'll try to spin this revelation as nothing more than that. But 126 million people being immersed daily into an advertising environment that's completely saturated with unregulated foreign propaganda, rubber-stamped with approval by an ostensibly loyal, United States citizen-owned publicly traded corporation... now that my friends, that right there is how you sew destruction throughout the minds of an entire population. That is how you fundamentally pervert the perception of reality of an entire social class. That is how you sever friendships and turn families against each other. That is how you topple a government. That is how you start a civil war. That is something worth panicking about.

    • Mark Zuckerberg trolls . . . you!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      That's how you sell bubble gum. Nobody changed their mind on who to vote for based on a facebook ad. If you think someone did, prove it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Maybe you've never heard how effective propaganda can be.

        Here is a hint. If it didn't work, no one would waste their time doing it...

      • by Kiuas ( 1084567 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2017 @05:33AM (#55462201)

        Nobody changed their mind on who to vote for based on a facebook ad. If you think someone did, prove it.

        Wtf?

        First of all, who said the point of the ads is to get people to change their mind? This is what the Trump team itself was doing with ads/targeting before the elections [bloomberg.com]:

        Trump’s campaign has devised another strategy, which, not surprisingly, is negative. Instead of expanding the electorate, Bannon and his team are trying to shrink it. “We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” says a senior official. They’re aimed at three groups Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans. Trump’s invocation at the debate of Clinton’s WikiLeaks e-mails and support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership was designed to turn off Sanders supporters. The parade of women who say they were sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton and harassed or threatened by Hillary is meant to undermine her appeal to young women. And her 1996 suggestion that some African American males are “super predators” is the basis of a below-the-radar effort to discourage infrequent black voters from showing up at the polls—particularly in Florida.

        All you need to dö is get enough people in the key demographic of your opponent to stay home in key areas.

        Second of all: many people don't recognize sponsored content/ads in social media, or elsewhere. You'll see a news article or a blog post that has above it something like '[Your friend name here] also liked [our site]' and that's in fact a paid ad targeted to you because someone you know has liked the page and they've targeted their promotion that way, but really people generally don't think of these as ads but just another part of their newsfeed which actually makes them more effective.

        Third of all: ads (both direct and sponsored content) do affect people's decisions. That's why they exist and why companies are pouring money into them but you obviously will have a hard time finding anyone who says they bought any opinion/product/service because it was advertised to them, partly because people don't often recognize the impact ads have on them. Chances are high advertising has affected your behavior during your lifetime without you being directly aware of it. You see ads and at some later point when you're making the decision of what to buy, the ads play into your preconceptions and decision making process at a subconscious level. Hardly no-one is at the store like 'I'm going to buy this product because I saw that ad last week" but there is still is an increase in sales following a successful marketing campaign.

        So no, if you poll people and ask them 'did you see any paid for articles in your news feed about either candidate and if so did they effect your decision on whether to vote or not and for which candidate?' you're likely going to get a 'no' on all 3 of those from most people but that doesn't mean there was no effect, it just means most people can't recognize well placed ads as ads anymore and that like always, people think they're immune to the psychological effects of ads/sponsored content when they provably are not.

        Human beings on average are much more easy to influence than we tend to admit, and the marketing industry has been honing their skills for way over half a century at this point becoming more and more successful at it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Prove that it had zero influence on anyone. You can't, any more than I can prove that a specific ad influenced a specific person.

        But it wasn't just ads of course. There was an army of fake accounts amplifying those messages and shitposting from 8 AM to 6 PM Moscow time every weekday.

        Frankly the claim that it all had zero influence lacks any credibility. I don't think any reasonable person would contest that propaganda and fake news has zero influence on anyone.

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        Are you saying ads don't work? You could earn billions by selling your idea to companies on how to cut their advertising budget.

    • The white-supremacist meme that the unarmed black men shot by the police deserved to be shot by the police?

      Or the BLM meme that the unarmed black men were shot by racist cops?

      But that the cops are racists may encourage the white supremacists because they want the cops to be racists who shoot black persons for no apparent reason?

      Or the BLM view that the cops are indeed racists despite their denials because of the white supremacists wanting the cops to be racist?

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      "an advertising environment that's completely saturated with unregulated foreign propaganda, rubber-stamped with approval by an ostensibly loyal, United States citizen-owned publicly traded corporation."

      So, if Facebook ads effect non-US politics, it's all fine, because "USA, fuck yeah!"
  • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @08:16PM (#55460959) Homepage Journal

    First, they tried to say the advertisements promoted Potus Trump, now "Divisive" ads. Divisive is code for Hillary and Bernie.

    And if we are only talking Divisive advertisements, what about ShareBlue or Correct the record? How many millions did these companies pay to change social media, 50 Million? 100 Million? How much did the DNC and related political pacs pay, 500 Million?

    And 80k from Russians is a big issue vs a billion?

    Wag the dog indeed. If you are still blaming Russia for Trumps win, you still haven't learned. Nobody liked Hillary and Bernie only ran as a Democrat to get on the stage.

    This two party system is a problem with all the money is funneled into 2 people. WTF, All that money into 2 parties. When vary widely on so many issues, 2 parties don't cover everyone. I have no idea how, but wish we had a multiparty system to stop this "us vs them" tribal cultural war. We got Democrats voting Republican for financial issues, and Republicans voting democrat for social issues. Libertarians, Socialist, Communists, etc, its a clusterfuck.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 30, 2017 @09:51PM (#55461313)

      This two party system is a problem with all the money is funneled into 2 people. WTF, All that money into 2 parties. When vary widely on so many issues, 2 parties don't cover everyone. I have no idea how.

      The answer is quite simple. The long term equilibrium configuration of an elected government where the winner takes all in a single round of voting, regardless of percentage, and winning is determined by the "first past the post" method. is a two party system. This can be proven mathematically and those interested in the details will find many fine sources with a few searches.

      but wish we had a multiparty system to stop this "us vs them" tribal cultural war.

      That will not be possible without major changes to the US constitution to implement proportional representation, where seats are allocated by votes and representatives of any party that gets enough votes for at least one seat will be granted that seat with more seats going proportionately to parties with more votes. Although it's still possible for a single party to win an outright majority in such a parliamentary system, in practice that rarely happens and it's not the equilibrium state in any case. The more typical situation is for the party with the most seats to "form a government" by making deals with other parties to secure votes for a prime minister from the majority party with other parties in the coalition receiving other benefits, typically ministerial level seats.

      We got Democrats voting Republican for financial issues, and Republicans voting democrat for social issues. Libertarians, Socialist, Communists, etc, its a clusterfuck.

      A parliamentary system would better harmonize and accommodate the various nuances of these positions. Unfortunately, that's not the system that we have here in the United States, mostly for historical reasons. You see, when the United States was founded there hadn't really been a democratic republic on any serious scale for thousands of years. Oh sure, you had city states here and there but nothing like a federal republic system. The most common form of government at the time was monarchy with varying degrees of absolutism and sometimes accompanied by an assembly of noblemen and (nominally) selected commoners but with much practical power remaining in the hands of the monarch. Many aristocratic people in Europe and elsewhere thought that democracy could not work on such a large scale and that United States was doomed to fail. Being that we were first nation to give Democracy a serious try on a large scale in a long while, basically since the early Republican period of the Romans, we were bound to get some things not quite right and those mistakes are now more or less baked into the system now 241 years on.

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2017 @01:27AM (#55461775)

      I have no idea how, but wish we had a multiparty system to stop this "us vs them" tribal cultural war. We got Democrats voting Republican for financial issues, and Republicans voting democrat for social issues. Libertarians, Socialist, Communists, etc, its a clusterfuck.

      The problem actually stems from our system of government electing representatives for a specific district (or state). It results in a bunch of winner-take-all elections. The founding fathers chose this method because they wanted elected representatives to have a direct connection to the people they were representing. The downside is that a vote for someone who has no chance of winning (a third party candidate) is a wasted vote.

      In countries which use parliamentary elections, everyone casts their votes, and the members of parliament are allocated in proportion to the vote. So a vote for a third party is not "wasted" (as long as that party gets enough votes to obtain one seat). The downside of course is that no single member of parliament feels bound to a particular group of people or represents any particular region.

      If you wish to retain the representative model while having fairer outcomes, you first have to realize that there is no such thing as a perfectly fair election system [wikipedia.org]. All of them can result in counter-intuitive results where the "winner" doesn't really enjoy as much support among the voters as the loser(s). People are upset about the Electoral College "stealing" the election from Clinton. But if you add up the votes for all the parties and independent candidates [wikipedia.org], the liberal parties (Democrat, Green, Independent, Socialism and Liberalism, Bernie Sanders) add up to 49.38% of the votes. Adding up the conservative parties (Republican, Libertarian, Constitution, Evan McMullin) gives 50.06%. So the correct winner of the 2016 election was in fact a conservative candidate even if you ignored the Electoral College and did a straight vote tally.

      But different systems result in a different frequency of counter-intuitive results. Unfortunately the plurality wins system the U.S. uses is one of the worst. The frequency of "bad" results can be minimized by use of an instant-runoff voting system [wikipedia.org]. Where each voter ranks all the candidates in order of preference. You then successively eliminate the candidate with the lowest number of #1 votes. Voters who voted for that candidate have their vote reallocated to their next highest choice of the remaining candidates. And so on. Until just two candidates are left, and the more popular of them among all the voters is the winner.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Domestic institutions are governed by US law. It's illegal for foreign institutions to interfere in US elections.

      More importantly, the Russian interference is carefully planned trolling. It's created huge divisions that won't easily be healed. Your country has been split multiple ways, with extremists coming to the forefront. You have literal Nazis marching in the streets and murdering people in broad daylight, you have a POTUS under criminal investigation and tweeting every day about locking up his politic

    • First, they tried to say the advertisements promoted Potus Trump,

      [citation needed]

      now "Divisive" ads.

      No, that's what the claim has always been. Either you're a moron who missed it, or a disingenuous douchebag who's making shit up now.

      Divisive is code for Hillary and Bernie.

      It's not code for hillary and bernie, it's code for showing made-up ads about hillary and bernie that made them look more reactionary than they actually are to people who would never support their policies, in an effort to whip those people into a froth. Targeted advertising normally displays ads about things to people who will be receptive, in order to sell t

    • by be951 ( 772934 )

      now "Divisive" ads. Divisive is code for Hillary and Bernie

      Divisive just means divisive. That can include driving Bernie supporters away from the polls or away from the democrat establishment. It can also include dividing the country by race, for those who are into that kind of thing.

      > And 80k from Russians is a big issue vs a billion?

      Not sure if you are trying to say that the 80,000 posts that facebook says were created or promoted by Russia-linked accounts cost a dollar each to create/promote/whatever, or if you're intentionally or accidentally conflating

  • by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @08:30PM (#55461029)
    Those pesky russians are smart! They can change an election outcome with just an ad! I wonder why US politicians did not think about doing the same.
    • Americans have to follow the rules. If I was going by the places they supposedly spam I'd guess the country is composed entirely of Nazis and SJWs.
      • Following the rules is easy when you write the rules.

      • Americans have to follow the rules. If I was going by the places they supposedly spam I'd guess the country is composed entirely of Nazis and SJWs.

        All I had to do to get that impression of the US was watch Fox news, the liberal media and snippets from a number of popular political YouTube channels from both sides of the US political spectrum.

    • Re:Smart russians (Score:4, Interesting)

      by iMadeGhostzilla ( 1851560 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @09:30PM (#55461239)

      Maybe they are not that smart. How do they know the ads were effective? For all we know they poured $100K into a campaign that didn't change a single vote.

    • Re:Smart russians (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Arzaboa ( 2804779 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @09:39PM (#55461283)

      The US has done this all over the world. Talk with Iran. Talk with Grenada. Talk with Guatemala. The list goes on.

      Russia won't allow any of this in their country. They've banned this stuff on Facebook internally because of this.

      This is one of the main reasons the Chinese have "The Chinese Firewall."

  • by SlaveToTheGrind ( 546262 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @08:38PM (#55461075)

    Or do we just have to take their word that they've fortuitously found exactly what they set out to look for, from people who are supposedly foreign operatives but apparently are too dumb to cover their tracks?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Yes sometimes we're able to figure out who they are. Just like when they hack us or supply our enemies with weapons. Imagine that.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Yes sometimes we're able to figure out who they are.

        There's no "we" here, which was my whole point. The article is about Facebook, a private corporation with accountability to no one, chock full of employees who live for stuff like this to be true, and who as far as I can tell is just asking us to take its word that it is true.

        That's fine for topics like the percentage of subscribers who post cat videos in a typical month. That's not at all fine for a topic like this.

    • by jbn-o ( 555068 )

      See the "meddling" posts? And learn that their alleged "interference" is indistinguishable from speaking freely?

      The next thing you're going to ask for is candidates taking sole responsibility for their campaigns, win or lose! Or to see and hear what "Voice of America" does in other countries.

  • if you don't use Facebook.

    Or anyplace else if you have an adblocker.

  • by WoodstockJeff ( 568111 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @09:32PM (#55461243) Homepage

    This is FB advertising the cost effectiveness of placing inexpensive ads on their service. And they're doing it "for free" by "revealing" the information to a willing press.

    "SEE HOW MANY IMPRESSIONS RUSSIA GOT FOR ONLY $[insert current estimate here]. YOUR AD COULD DO AS WELL!"

    These ads are getting more play now than they got before, most likely.

  • by buravirgil ( 137856 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2017 @01:16AM (#55461755)
    An interesting movie to have seen is Generation P(2011) because to what degree the average (young) Russian can be familiar with US culture far outpaces any reciprocity. Not because of any superiority, but because western advances in terms of technology and modernity have had a primacy since WWII. Someone had to come first. Which produces ironies, such as Dan Ackroyd's (Zalinsky) line from Tommy Boy(1995): What the American public doesn't know is what makes them the American public. Such precedence is realized and actualized by markets and most often expressed in terms of consumer goods. But their design and production will not forever remain America's providence, nor should they, and this is understandably frightening to many and exploited by some for many reasons.
  • They didn't get the memo did they? Russians weren't hacking the election anymore. It's only election hacking if they supported Republicans. All the money Russians spent on the Democrats clearly shows that they were not hacking the election.
  • Oh Nos! All those Special Snowflakes who can't make their own decisions saw Bad Things! We must Reeducate them! Get the accounts list from Faceplant and start up the trucks! Seriously? If you're the kind of person who votes based on political ads, would you please STOP VOTING!? Democracy needs a well educated, involved voter base to work. It's a given that neither side WANTS a well-educated voter base, but surely adults (that want to) can find out things for themselves? Even biased news
  • Perhaps, it would be a good idea to develop an Universal Code of Conduct? Similar to Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    Otherwise the attempts to destabilize each other would only keep intensifying.
  • See? Facebook is bad for you. Delete your account and never go back there.
  • by HermMunster ( 972336 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2017 @06:52PM (#55466747)

    Also extremely biased.

    So 100,000 dollars nets you 120 million influnces. Facebook is going to sell a lot more ads in the near future. I didn't see the ads as I dumped Facebook during the primaries due to what I perceived as inherent bias on the part of Facebook itself.

    I had no likes, entered no work or education history, rarely followed anyone but tech pages, and I was being inundated with pro Hillary and anti-Trump rhetoric.

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