Senate Intel Chair Demands Crackdown On Russia's Social-Media Ad Spend

Following Facebook’s “bombshell” revelation last night that Russian-backed entities purchased more than $100,000 in political advertising on its platform, Congressional Democrats and their compatriots in the “resistance” have been howling that the company's admission represents incontrovertible proof that Russia successfully managed to sway the US presidential election.

Setting aside the fact that such claims are laughable on their face, Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is saying that Congress should pass legislation requiring Facebook and other social media companies to crack down on ad buys by foreign entities to prevent foreign adversaries from manipulating the social media feeds of U.S. citizens, possibly swaying the outcome of future elections, according to CNN.

"Americans ought to be able to know if there is foreign-sponsored content” affecting their social media feeds, Warner says. “This is brand new"

Facebook told congressional investigators Wednesday that it sold about $100,000 in political advertising – which paid for about 3,000 ads - to Russian troll farms between June 2015 to May 2017.

However, Warner said that he heard a different story from the social media giant during the 2016 election.

"It appeared to me that the very social media sites that we rely on for virtually everything - our Facebooks, Googles and Twitters - it was my belief the Russians were using those sites to intervene in our elections," Warner said Thursday, speaking at the Intelligence & National Security Summit in Washington. "And the first reaction from Facebook was: 'Well you're crazy, there's nothing going on' - well, we find yesterday there actually was something going on."

Warner cited what Russia did in the 2016 election as an example of how foreign adversaries can use social media to influence US policy and elections.

Specifically, Warner suggested that Congress could require disclosure requirements on social media advertising similar to those for television commercials.

"An American can still figure out what content is being used on TV advertising. ... But in social media there's no such requirement," Warner said. "There may be a reform process here. I actually think the social media companies would not oppose, because I think Americans, particularly when it comes to elections, ought to be able to know if there is foreign-sponsored content coming into their electoral process."

Adding a layer of febrile urgency to their comments, both Warner and California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said during Thursday's conference that they’re worried Russia will again try to sway US voters, presumably during the upcoming 2018 midterm elections. Schiff added that Americans are virtually defenseless against Russian hacking, another ridiculous claim considering that all available evidence shows the DNC was compromised after employees fell for unsophisticated email scams.

"There is no software patch for what happened last year, there is no cyberdefense capable enough," Schiff said. "If Russians want to get into the Democratic National Committee in 2020, they'll get in. If they want to get into the Republican National Committee, they will get in."

As a reminder, here’s what Facebook reported yesterday:

“In reviewing the ads buys, we have found approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June of 2015 to May of 2017 — associated with roughly 3,000 ads — that was connected to about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies. Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.

 

In this latest review, we also looked for ads that might have originated in Russia — even those with very weak signals of a connection and not associated with any known organized effort. This was a broad search, including, for instance, ads bought from accounts with US IP addresses but with the language set to Russian — even though they didn’t necessarily violate any policy or law. In this part of our review, we found approximately $50,000 in potentially politically related ad spending on roughly 2,200 ads.

 

We don’t allow inauthentic accounts on Facebook, and as a result, we have since shut down the accounts and Pages we identified that were still active.

 

The vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the US presidential election, voting or a particular candidate.

 

Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.

 

About one-quarter of these ads were geographically targeted, and of those, more ran in 2015 than 2016.

 

We have shared our findings with US authorities investigating these issues, and we will continue to work with them as necessary.”

Of course, the idea that $100,000 in ad buys could materially impact the outcome of an election is categorically ridiculous. The Clinton campaign ultimately outspent Trump by tens of millions of dollars.

In any case, perhaps the Democrats’ eagerness to seize on Facebook’s disclosure – which was made more salacious because Zuckerberg & Co. initially denied the story is another sign that Congressional investigators have NOTHING substantive to prove that Russia colluded with the Trump campaign to swing the election.

But we’re sure everybody from Rachel Maddow to Joe Scarborough to maybe even Clinton herself will use the Facebook cudgel to deflect blame from the disastrous Clinton campaign and the party heavyweights who helped organize it.

Ironically, as this post hit, Google came out and explained that:

*GOOGLE SAYS SEEN NO EVIDENCE OF MISLEADING POLITICAL AD BUYS

Even Putin won't give Google cash!

Comments

jcaz Thu, 09/07/2017 - 14:21 Permalink

Yes, because even more Government control in Facebook is a really good idea.....Fuckwit.At least the "Russians" PAY for their ads....

Creepy_Azz_Crackaah (not verified) ne-tiger Thu, 09/07/2017 - 14:33 Permalink

Speaking of ad spending: I don't watch Tee Vee but listen to a fair amount of radio. I keep hearing "brought to you by the Ad Council" at the end of MANY ads. Normally ads targeted to complete dumb fucks. WTF is the gubmint doing buying so man ads with my tax dollars? Yolonda can find the EBT office just fine without my tax dollars buying ad time telling her where to go.

And, what radio/Tee Vee stations will ever speak out against the gubmint when it is such a HUGE ad buyer?

In reply to by ne-tiger

Itinerant Perimetr Thu, 09/07/2017 - 16:15 Permalink

There will be a lot of money flowing to Russian trolls and "hackers". Americans are defenseless againt Russian hackers, and their minds are easily kidnapped by Russian trolls. If you can rig the election for $100K, why spend tens of millions on inept American political strategists and lousy American media [Oh, I forgot, exporting media and culture is one of the few sectors in American with a huge trade imbalance in favor of the US]; just spend a few pennies on those amazing Russki spin doctors and keep the rest in your own pockets.

In reply to by Perimetr

Mementoil gladih8r Thu, 09/07/2017 - 14:59 Permalink

During the last election cycle in Israel, the Obama administration has funded a large scale campaign against Benjamin Netanyahu.They later admitted to spending millions of dollars on it (and given the size of the operation I suspect it actually cost a lot more).Needless to say that the campaign was a complete failiure, and Netanyahu won by a landslide.So who is influencing who?

In reply to by gladih8r

Shitonya Serfs Yukon Cornholius Thu, 09/07/2017 - 14:46 Permalink

Things we rely on for everything??

Sounds like they should be considered a Utility...and regulated withing an inch of their existences.

Also, these sound like businesses open to the PUBLIC...which means they cannot discriminate against anyone, not deprive people of their "rights"...remember Cakes vs. Fruits, in court his business was deemed guilty to discrimination because his business was open to the public.

In reply to by Yukon Cornholius

11b40 knukles Thu, 09/07/2017 - 15:54 Permalink

What about the hundreds of millions of PAC money that no one has a clue about where it comes from?  Reckon Israel inserts themselves into our elections?  How about the Saudi's?  Maybe we could see some examples of what kind of ads they are talking about.  I have not seen one yet.  Or, maybe they could start talking aobut the actual CONTENT.  Are the 'Russians' spreading lies, or are they spreading truths?

In reply to by knukles

BandGap Thu, 09/07/2017 - 14:23 Permalink

Wasn't it the government that invited some Pakistani fellows to manage their networks? I seem to remember Congresswoman Whitefang being in hot water about something like that.What a fucking joke.

gregga777 Thu, 09/07/2017 - 14:24 Permalink

"Mark Warner: "Congress Needs To Pass Legislation To Police Social-Media Ad Buys""

Better yet, how about we make it a capital crime for a political parasite to accept anything of value from foreigners? You know, like how Hillary Rodham "Bill the Pedophile's Pimp" Clinton took $ millions from Russia in exchange for selling them US uranium mining rights. I'd love to see her arms and legs spasming as her head falls into the guillotine collection basket.

BritBob Thu, 09/07/2017 - 14:26 Permalink

Russia's biggest propaganda machine - RTRT (formerly Russia Today) is a Russian international television network funded by the Russian Government.  It operates cable and satellite television channels directed to audiences outside of Russia, as well as providing Internet content in various languages, including English, Spanish and Russian.