Mueller managed to release a rather bombshell indictment last Friday in the form of an investigative report.
The Mueller report implicated around 13 Russian nationals.
Moreover, the report also detailed a multi-year and rather costly effort on part of Russia to cause widespread confusion and, in turn, influence the US presidential elections of 2016.
Russia used Facebook as the core of its effort to influence US elections.
It also used Facebook’s subsidiary Instagram to launch similar mass confusion campaigns.
The IRA, or the Russian Internet Research Agency, used platforms such as Facebook and Instagram and then recruited American followers.
The Russian Internet Research Agency also planned real-life rallies via the same platforms.
Then using other techniques it spread propaganda to confuse the population about important issues such as,
Eventually, The Russian Internet Research Agency extended its propaganda to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as well.
The Mueller indictment consistently mentioned the Russian Internet Research Agency using online platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.
In fact, the Mueller indictment mentioned Instagram and Facebook a whopping 41 times.
That is more than all other online platforms that the report mentioned such as,
The Mueller indictment mentioned each of the above three mentioned online media platforms less than 12 times.
The Vice President of advertising at Facebook, Rob Goldman, tweeted last Friday that Russia had an ultimate goal.
What was that goal?
That ultimate goal was very definitively not to influence the US 201 presidential election.
The ultimate goal involved Russia dividing the United States of America by using the nation’s trusted institutions such as social media and free speech.
Does that make sense?
Goldman may be correct.
Or he may be wrong.
On the one hand, Godman seems to have the correct opinion that Russia indeed had an aim.
That aim involved Russia to try and deepen the partisan divides that already existed in the US.
In doing so, Russia could have stirred up more chaos.
However, on the other hand, Goldman is rather incorrect when he tries to assert that the Russians had no interest in influencing the United States 201 Presidential elections.
The idea that Russia would not want to influence the US presidential elections is rather at odds with what the American people know about Russia.
And Russia hasn’t exactly successfully managed to hide its use of social media online platforms either.
Moreover, Goldman’s statement also goes against the Mueller indictment itself.
To take an example, Goldman, for one reason or another, completely overlooked the huge impact that Russians managed to have with simple ordinary posts.
Ordinary posts perform a different function that paid ads.
More importantly, though, Goldman appears to have also misunderstood the reason Russians used so much advertisement on popular social media platforms.
As one would expect, President Donald Trump did not shy away from seizing on Goldman’s recent tweets last Saturday.
Citing the Goldman tweet President Trump came up with a tweet of his own and implied that some media organizations in the US had made it their duty to report false news stories that Russia had some involvement in the 2016 US presidential elections.
President Donald J Trump said that the Fake News Media in the country never failed to miss an opportunity in order to malign him.
He also mentioned that one could not ignore the “fact” from the current Vice President of Facebook ads.
In another similar tweet President Trump quote Rob Goldman as saying that he had seen all of the Facebook Russian ads.
And that he could say on a definitive basis that Russia did not have the main goal of swaying the 2016 US Presidential elections.
As far as Goldman is concerned, he still maintains that the Russian government had no involvement in efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential elections.
According to Goldman, in part, because Russians had organized protests.
And these protests represented both sides of the political debate.
That is, of course, true.
Recent media reports have revealed that Russians did design some of its propaganda efforts that way.
Certain institutions in Russia wanted to create distrust and confusion among the general US population.
This would have also allowed Russian institutions to sow more division in the American society.
However, this doesn’t really mean that Russians didn’t have any interest in other potential goals.
Goals such as attempting to carry out any activity to make sure that American people did not elect Clinton.
The Russian Internet Research Agency actually employed more than a dozen of people who worked full time.
Moreover, media reports have also divulged on the fact that the Russians readily spent money on keeping those employees.
Russian agencies actually spent in the region of $1 million per month on its propaganda efforts in the US.
Some reports put the figure even above $1 million per month.
According to the Mueller indictment, Russian agencies indeed hire people to influence the US presidential election in 2016.
But there is one other thing that Mueller indictment indicates rather clearly.
Russian agents’ primary aim involved them influencing the 2016 presidential election in such a way that people would go against candidates such as Clinton.
Moreover, they also wanted people to favor candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
Reports also mention that Russian agents had started to work on that task quite a while ago.
In fact, they started their work as early as the year 2014.
That’s almost 2 years before the 2016 US presidential elections.
Russian operatives had clear instructions.
They had the freedom to use any and all opportunity to criticize candidates such as Hillary Clinton.
Along with everybody else.
But they could not extend the favor to candidates such as Trump and Bernie Sanders because the Russian government supported them.
Some in the Russian quarters actually criticized certain Russian operated Facebook groups.
A group by the name of Secured Bordered had to endure criticism for not making the effort to post more material.
The material, that was dedicated to criticizing and disparaging Hillary Clinton.
There is more troubling news as well.
The Russian agents actively encouraged United States minority groups such as African Americans to try and stay away from the general election polls on polling day.
According to the Mueller indictment, certain accounts on Instagram carried out such tasks.
One account on the site, posted a strange message in October 2016.
The message came from an account by the name of Woke Blacks.
This account published a message which said that people who would like to vote for Hillary would actually choose the lesser evil of the available two devils.
And that, the US people would be definitively better of if they did not vote at all.
The research director at the Digital Journalism Tow Center of Columbia University, Jonathan Albright, recently said that people should consider it far more concerning that Russians had targeted and had taken groups in order to remove them from the entire process of voting.
Jonathan has managed to track efforts related to Russian propaganda even before the election began.
He told reporters that the Russian propaganda underscored the fact that they didn’t really know whether the people on these social media platforms were real or inauthentic.
As far as the Goldman tweet goes, it does far more than just contradict the Mueller indictment.
It basically shows that even people working at Facebook don’t really understand Russia’s true purpose behind buying those ads.
According to Albright, Russia only wanted to get the ball rolling with the help of ads.
Once the ball had started to roll in the right direction, they had to find those right people for the job.
Albright believes that Russia relied heavily on making the process as efficient as possible.
The purpose of buying ads had more to do with refining their targets rather than anything else.
Russian agencies used those ads to initiate the actual process of persuasion.
And they carried out that persuasion process over a long period of time.
As mentioned before, that period was similar in length to around two years.
To put it in simpler terms, Russian agencies designed the ads in order to get people come together.
And like specific Facebook pages.
Sometimes they also wanted people to follow certain Instagram accounts.
The pages or Instagram accounts don’t always act as propaganda outlets.
Instead of that, Russian agencies only used these as a means to lure American people into their fold.
Russian agencies saved the propaganda material for a later date.
After a certain period of time had passed, they started to distribute the material.
To take an example, one of these Russian ads innocuously told or rather instructed American users to follow a predetermined Facebook page if they believed in the teaching of Prophet Jesus or followed his teachings.
All of that is fine.
But later on, that same Facebook page started to spread a Hillary Clinton meme in which she had devil horns.
Readers should also know that the Russian Internet Research Agency ads on the popular online platform Facebook only represented a tiny fraction of the overall Russian strategy.
In fact, Facebook recently estimated that around 10 million of its users saw those paid ads.
Moreover, reports have also revealed that around 150 million online users saw other similar content that came from fake Facebook accounts.
That’s not all.
The Russians went even further to increase the scale of their online influence.
They managed to leverage how other online Facebook users read and then reacted to their ads and/or posts.
If one only looks at just six of Russian Internet Research Agency’s Facebook pages, arranged via popularity, then these pages have received a total of 340 million shares.
Moreover, these Facebook pages have also managed to cause around 20 million interactions.
According to Albright’s research, these interactions included activities such as,
- Emoji reactions
- Page shares
The Russians earned similar success rate on Facebook’s subsidiary Instagram as well.
Albright’s report mentioned that a single account related to Russia managed to receive around 10 million interactions.
And these are only the interactions that the page generated from January of 2016 to August of 2017.
With all that said, it is also true that Albright exercised care before saying that the Russians gamed Facebook.
More specifically, the Russians may indeed have gamed the online social media platform’s algorithms.
Why would the Russian agencies do that?
Well, if they knew how to game the algorithms, then they could use that to generate and produce even higher engagement.
Of course, there is another possibility as well.
Facebook could have some real cracks in the way the social media website measures its user engagement metric.
According to Albright, Facebook should have no questions that some or a portion of the metrics and the total number of shares that a post receives are in fact inflated.
Since now everyone, including Facebook, knows that Russians used the technology company to influence the 2016 US elections, Facebook has now come up with its own solution.
The Facebook Solution
Facebook’s solution involves the company hiring thousands of people of its own to monitor the company’s ads.
Facebook has also marched forward by crafting stricter policies when it comes to ads on the site.
Now the company will have more requirements for entities interested in buying political advertisements on the site.
Facebook’s vice president of Global Policy, Joel Kaplan, made an interesting comment the other day.
He said that Facebook, as a company, had played it due part.
It helped law enforcement agencies wherever and whenever it could.
In other words, Facebook proactively helped to disclose the Internet Research Agency’s activity.
The company also worked extensively with various investigators.
And used that experience to give the US public a better and fuller understanding of exactly what happened.
Joel, via an email statement, said that Facebook already had established working channels with various federal agencies.
Those federal agencies included the likes of the FBI.
Kaplan further added that Facebook had sought their help to better understand the way in which it could help the country.
And protect its institutions and people, at least when they are using the company’s platform.
All of that sounds pretty reasonable.
Except that there is at least one Facebook top executive who still doesn’t seem to have enough understanding of the situation.
Some of the company’s senior executives are unable to grasp what really happened.
And how Russia used Facebook to affect and influence the US election in an organic manner.
Regarding Goldman’s tweets, Facebook representatives did not make any comments.
The company also refused to follow up on a request for Goldman’s tweet and other comments.
Perhaps that’s justified according to the company.
Afterall, Goldman’s tweets only addressed Russia and how it purchased Facebook’s online ads.
It is another thing, of course, that the entire focus of Goldman’s job is exactly that.
Who buy what ads and how many.
That is quite possibly also the reason why he has failed to mention some other ways in which Russia could have acted.
Or co-opted Facebook.
It also seems that Goldman wants to give the impression that there are actually simpler ways to resolve situations.
Especially situations which involve issues related to foreign online meddling.
The reality is different though.
Organizations such as Congress, Facebook along with the US public still haven’t quite grappled with the truth.
And that truth is, a country like Russia managed to weaponize an internet platform to influence another country’s presidential election.
Albright also mentioned that Facebook still hasn’t managed Russia propaganda on its platform.
In other words, Russia still has questionable content on the company’s social media platform.
Additionally, Albright added, Facebook users were still circulating some portion of those memes.
In fact, according to Albright, anyone looking for them could easily find those memes.
Summary of Recent Russia Revelations
Following the Mueller indictment, there is now undeniable evidence that Russia indeed played a role in US elections.
To put it another way, Russia attempted to influence and disrupt the 2016 US presidential election.
A total of 13 Russian companies launched extensive campaigns to undermine the US presidential election.
The Mueller indictment also contained many pieces of information which revealed new details about the operation.
Some experts found the description of the Russian Internet Research Agency’s work as striking.
The work IRA performed for the state had one “striking” feature.
That feature was blandness.
The Mueller indictment also managed to reveal how Russian agents appropriated US citizen’s identities in order to hide their true objectives.