Don’t blame Facebook for our own failings

by on November 2, 2017 at 12:09 am in Current Affairs, Law, Political Science, Uncategorized, Web/Tech | Permalink

That is the theme of my latest column for Bloomberg, here is one excerpt:

Critics may argue that Facebook isn’t so much like a phone company because it uses complex algorithms to decide what to place before our eyes. That’s true, but would the critics be much happier if ads and posts on Facebook simply appeared in linear, chronological order? And on the question of algorithms, consider an analogy with a traditional publisher: Plenty of mainstream companies have published and promoted the works of Marx, Stalin, Hitler and Mao. The “algorithm” behind these decisions was whether these works would find an audience and bring in profit. The ideologies behind those works, of course, led to revolutions and the massacres of many millions, plus the infiltration of Western governments by communist sympathizers and delusional beliefs for several generations of Western intellectuals. Few of us are happy about those outcomes, yet for the most part we don’t blame printing presses, publishers’ quest for profit or their “algorithms.” We instead focus on the bad ideas themselves, and how we might persuade individuals otherwise.

You could think of Facebook as akin to a delivery truck, noting that such trucks often carry guns, abused medications, junk food and bad books, among other evils. If Russian conspirators order you flowers for Valentine’s Day, perhaps in appreciation of your pro-Putin tweets, the delivery truck will bring those too.

Here is good analysis by Jacob Sullum.  Here you can view some of the offending ads, weak tea says I. Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov would have been ashamed.

Overall, one reason Facebook is such a scapegoat is because so many individuals don’t want to admit that Trump simply won the election.  To the extent you can pin his victory on some kind of conspiracy or wrongdoing, that gives you something to rail against, something to blame, and also a way to feel better about parts of your country.

1 Rafael R November 2, 2017 at 12:13 am

I think Trump needs to win in 2020 as well. Then they will start to accept reality.

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2 The Other Jim November 2, 2017 at 7:27 am

>Then they will start to accept reality.

Dude, if 11/8/16 didn’t do it, nothing ever will.

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3 Pshrnk November 2, 2017 at 10:58 am

It is a bitter reality to accept that a large percentage of us and gullible morons.

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4 Lee November 2, 2017 at 11:03 am

Yes, as opposed to rationally informed voters who pulled the lever for that stalwart American patriot, Hillary Clinton.

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5 Pshrnk November 2, 2017 at 6:40 pm

There were many choices other than Hillary. Shame on us for the major parties yielding two bad choices.

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6 Chet Manley November 2, 2017 at 12:27 am

He didn’t simply win the election. He had propaganda help from Russia, theft help from Russia, and the Comey tipping the scales in his favor at the end. All that and he still lost the popular vote, is unpopular, and can’t get anything done legislatively. He’s a big dumb loser and Tyler, you’re a big free rider on other people saying that so you can make ancillary “but but but Trump’s only most bad” points.

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7 Thomas Sewell November 2, 2017 at 1:42 am

Bravo for your very well done impression of “To the extent you can pin his victory on some kind of conspiracy or wrongdoing, that gives you something to rail against, something to blame …” as mentioned in the post. It’s funny how frequently someone predicts something like that, only to have someone else who disagrees with them come along to prove it in writing for them.

Have you considered that all of what you mentioned had a negligible impact, Comey has as much as admitted he was actually trying to help Clinton (he’s not exactly Trump’s best buddy) and that the electoral college in the end wasn’t actually all that close? It was certainly a much bigger win that Bush v. Gore, for example, where you might be able to argue a few votes in just one State may’ve mattered.

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8 Jan November 2, 2017 at 5:47 am

How hard do you think it is to tip 0.06% of the votes in this country, which was what gave Trump the win?

And Comey said no such thing–he was trying to boost his own status and thought Clinton would win in a landslide. Regardless of his intentions, what he did mattered, Fox News and friends seized on it like it was 9/11. Now…there is absolutely nothing on Clinton from the administration that shouted and continues to shout “lock her up.” This is the administration that controls the Justice Department. But strangely, the tweets on the losing candidate continue and surrogate media outlets keep finding new Clinton stories.

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9 M. Klaus November 2, 2017 at 6:28 am

Sorry, guys Trump won. I’m not happy about it, but he did. If you keep focusing on this and “identity politics” we will lose again…

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10 Jeff R November 2, 2017 at 9:40 am

How hard do you think it is to tip 0.06% of the votes in this country, which was what gave Trump the win?

Really hard. Next to impossible. Most people are not persuadable and in any case whatever Russian click farmers were posting on Twitter/Facebook about the election was drowned out by stuff Americans were saying about the election.

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11 JonFraz November 2, 2017 at 1:55 pm

Last year featured the fairly unique situation of two very unpopular, dislikable candidates. In that environment a good number of votes really are up for grabs since you can convince people that they might as well hold their nose and vote for the other guy since they already have to hold their nose when they vote anyway.

12 Chip November 2, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Some people will need an intervention.

Trump’s campaign and actions are detrimental to Russian interests. A yearlong media frenzy and government investigation has found nothing. Clinton did pay for Russian dirt. That dirt was likely used to trigger government spying on political opponents. The FBI is fighting tooth and nail to prevent Congress from seeing if the dossier was used to initiate this spying.

Meanwhile, Donna Brazile just jumped the Clinton ship and Dems are scrambling. I suspect the crap is about to hit the fan and the scandal will be massive and widespread.

Rational people who don’t become emotionally invested in politics could see this coming last year.

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13 Thor November 2, 2017 at 12:32 am

“Facebook doesn’t cause collusion; foolish/naive Facebook use cause collusion”?

Anyway, well said, by Tyler. The Dem bitter enders can cling to their dogmas of Facebook and collusion all they want, but voters — in a fit of pique or a fit of optimism about Making America Great — fairly and squarely got what they wanted.

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14 Alistair November 2, 2017 at 8:12 am

True. But the Dem’s require that Someone Has To Be Blamed (Anyone, of course, but themselves and their nostrums).

In the absence of a message to kill, the messenger can be shot.

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15 Albert November 2, 2017 at 10:02 am

Democrats will do anything to win an election, except make a concerted effort to win over new voters, visit difficult states or do anything hard. Complaining about unfair Facebook advertising is so easy, you can do it in your pajamas!

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16 JonFraz November 2, 2017 at 1:56 pm

OK, but do let’s remember the GOP has a history of scapegoating too to explain its failures– “vote fraud” being a perennial favorite. Heck Trump even pulled that one last year to explain why he didn’t win a popular majority.

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17 msgkings November 2, 2017 at 4:33 pm

Among the many amusingly clowny aspects of Trumpocracy is the sight of him questioning the validity of an election that he won.

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18 Thor November 2, 2017 at 9:16 pm

I caught that too, a hilarious moment in the annals of America’s electoral history.

19 Mark Thorson November 2, 2017 at 12:38 am

The Russians didn’t write the John Podesta and Donna Brazile e-mails, they merely (if it was the Russians) leaked them. I’d like the Russians to penetrate the e-mail accounts of everyone in U.S. politics (at least, the ones that don’t practice good security hygiene) and release those too. Transparency is good. Knowing Hillary was leaked the debate questions in advance is good. Knowing that the DNC was working hard to stack the deck against Bernie is good. Hey, Russians, give us more! I thank you for what we’ve already received, but I want the whole candy store!

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20 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 2:45 am

‘I’d like the Russians to penetrate the e-mail accounts of everyone in U.S. politics (at least, the ones that don’t practice good security hygiene) and release those too.’

Don’t worry, the Russians have already done that. What you will get to see in 2018 is what the Russians think best serve their interests when it comes to revealing them.

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21 Bill November 2, 2017 at 8:36 am

Actually, given everyone’s belief about money and corruptibility in politics, I was surprised that there was nothing there of that nature.

Now, if we could just get Donald’s tax returns.

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22 Mark Thorson November 2, 2017 at 6:53 pm
23 A Truth Seeker November 2, 2017 at 12:45 am

Molotov slandered the Brazilian people, he called our president a fascist (those were the days when the Soviet bandits used to call Mr. Truman a mad haberdasher). Mr. Acheson rebuked Mr. Molotov and pointed out Brazil’s fight against the nazi-fascist beast. That was a time when Americans knew the meaning of honor and gratitude.

Contrary to the Bolshevik-spreaded legend, Molotov, whose real name was Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Scriabin, was not a relative of famous musician Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin. Why do Bolsheviks lie so much?!

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24 Harun November 2, 2017 at 1:58 am

Hillary Clinton was willing to hire foreigners to talk to Russian intelligence officials to get “dirt” on her political opponent.

That is colluding with foreign agents in our elections.

And you people are worried about Facebook ads?

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25 Jan November 2, 2017 at 6:04 am

Intelligence officials? Nah. Collusion would have been coordinating with Russia to blast the pee tape across Twitter for millions to see. Alas, they did not do that.

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26 Harun November 2, 2017 at 3:01 pm

or if there was no pee tape, but it was a story sold to Steele bceause…hey, he’s paying for dirt!

and the story still got out for millions to read about – just like a fake Facebook ad.

No difference. Except the candidate went directly to the Russians through a few cut-outs.

If you’re worried about foreign influence that should worry you.

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27 Steve Sailer November 2, 2017 at 2:15 am

The largest individual shareholder of the New York Times is a foreign national who has typically been closely associated with his country’s government. He even married into a genuine Fascist political dynasty, the Gemayel warlord family that founded the Lebanese Phalange Party.

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28 Art Deco November 2, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Again, the Gemayel’s are Maronite particularists, not fascists. They have a long history of participation in parliamentary government in Lebanon.

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29 Alistair November 3, 2017 at 8:10 am

+1

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30 Steve Sailer November 2, 2017 at 2:17 am

Too bad Hillary didn’t have $1.2 billion and a giant staff of young Digital Natives at her headquarters in Brooklyn to help her with this Facebook doohickey.

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31 Alistair November 2, 2017 at 8:14 am

+10,000

Ah, but remember, the Kremlin FB posts are, like, super-duper effective compared to Dem posts. Or something. Reasons!

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32 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 2:36 am

There are many pieces to this, but I think the central error in this essay is that it conflates anonymity with identity theft.

When hackers/trolls pretend to be a GOP office, they are stealing the authority of that office. When they pretend to be Americans of various sorts, from “gays for Bernie” to “Christians against Hillary” to even “BLM” they are stealing the authority of Americans.

They are at best diluting, but at worst diverting, our American hopes and dreams with an enemy subterfuge.

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33 Jeff R November 2, 2017 at 9:44 am

Lulz. Did not disappoint.

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34 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 9:59 am

Imagine yourself a Christian, one of 170,000 followers of an “American Christian” account on Facebook. Are you really cool with godless Russian spies running that site, impersonating real Americans and Christians, just to mess with you?

“Nothing matters anymore?”

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35 derek November 2, 2017 at 10:18 am

Sure, says a guy who calls himself Anonymous.

Hillary wanted to repeal the 1st Amendment because someone made a movie about her. Now her acolytes want to control what everyone reads, because they might read something she doesn’t want them to.

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36 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 10:22 am

That is an amazing “sample” derek. You don’t understand that anonymity is the opposite of a claim of identity or authority. It is a way to hang out ideas to stand or fall on their own.

But beyond that you yourself are now (in miniature form) a foreign agent committing libel against Americans.

Hillary never wanted to repeal the 1st Amendment, you POS troll.

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37 Careless November 2, 2017 at 9:35 pm
38 Anonymous November 3, 2017 at 10:57 am

Dishonest response. The 1st existed before Citizens United. So obvs a reversal of CU would not reverse the 1st.

39 Careless November 3, 2017 at 11:52 am

Not at all dishonest. What the Amendment she wants would do is eliminate the freedom of speech and press, with exceptions for some media companies.

40 HL November 2, 2017 at 10:31 am

Imagine being a “Conservative American” with your own federal government and its supporters running “You don’t have real American values, we do!” schtick.

Imagine being a long time church goer while your church leaders start teaching against everything you were taught.

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41 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 10:37 am

You are confusing debate with identity theft, or astroturfing.

42 HL November 2, 2017 at 10:46 am

It is infiltration and subversion by an outgroup.

43 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 10:56 am

You are saying other honest and upfront Americans, who think they have American values, are a dangerous outgroup?

That is polarization and political division to an extreme.

44 HL November 2, 2017 at 11:08 am

Hard not to notice that these honest and upfront Americans don’t believe in what I believe, didn’t grow up the way I did, don’t look the way I do, don’t share my values or life experiences and want to get me shamed and unemployable for my beliefs.

That they are citizens is a mere technicality. It doesn’t mean that we are brothers! The latest thrill is that borders are old fashioned and meaningless. What does it matter if they are a foreign influence? That too is a mere technicality.

45 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 11:14 am

You are a special and unique person, HL. No one is going to believe everything you believe.

And so shoot for a working politics that satisfies 70% of all the HLs out there. And the HMs, HNs, HOs .. HZs.

46 Jeff R November 2, 2017 at 11:13 am

Child please. People troll on the internet all the time. This blog is full of them. If you really think that a few dozen or even several hundred of them being in the pay of the Russian government can really have much impact on real-world events, you need to put down the smartphone and maybe go for a walk or something.

But no, everyone who disagrees with you is a nihilist. Arrogance and narcissism FTW.

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47 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 11:18 am

If you practice “I stopped reading at ‘Russia'” you really aren’t going to be able to keep up in this discussion.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/2017/10/30/4509587e-bd84-11e7-97d9-bdab5a0ab381_story.html

48 Jeff R November 2, 2017 at 11:33 am

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg initially dismissed the importance of phony news reports spreading unchecked on Facebook, saying it was “a pretty crazy idea” to suggest that “fake news” could have affected the outcome of the election.

Exactly. Zuck knows more about how Facebook works than you do. Thanks for the link.

49 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 11:37 am

Come on man, that isn’t very honest. What is Zuckerberg’s opinion after further study?

Trolls.

50 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 11:39 am
51 Jeff R November 2, 2017 at 12:04 pm

Pro-tip: when a CEO says during an earnings conference call, it should not necessarily be accepted as his actual opinion. Unsettling, I know, but sometimes a CEO will simply tell people what he thinks they want to hear.

Also in that link: Facebook 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 1 out of 23,000 posts.

The horror.

52 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 12:09 pm

You were lying when you creatively clipped your Zuckerberg paragraph.

Now you are just being transparent in your confirmation bias. You agree with Zuckerberg when he agrees with you, you wave away any other inconvenient truths.

53 Jeff R November 2, 2017 at 12:21 pm

I think he gave his unvarnished opinion about how it was “pretty crazy” to think that a few Facebook posts/ads swung the election, and he was absolutely right about that, but then had to walk that back when he realized people didn’t want to hear that and were determined to blame him for an election outcome he didn’t, just as you are now. That happens all the time. Call it a variant of the Kinsley Gaffe: some prominent person tells the truth in an unguarded moment, which sparks an indignant response, and that person then has to apologize, equivocate, recant of his wrongthink, etc.

54 Jeff R November 2, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Argh. Should read “blame him for an election outcome they didn’t like.”

55 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Actually Jeff, you should note that you are replying to a comment that comes at this from a much more fundamental level. I don’t complain about the election result above. I complain about the stolen identity of American citizens. As I say below, p=0 and p=1 are both indefensible. They are “positive truths” without any kind of proof. What they probably really are is sloppy thinking. “I think the odds are low, so I’ll say it is impossible.”

FWIW, I think p=0.10 to p=0.20 that the constellation of fake news and hacking tipped the election. I think those low odds are significant, and that they should trigger “design review” on social media. Zuckerberg apparently agrees. I mean, he says so.

56 Jeff R November 2, 2017 at 12:36 pm

” They are “positive truths” without any kind of proof. ”

Dude, you don’t have any proof, either. That’s some pot-kettle crap right there. Your p values are just made up; they’re not the end product of any rigorous quantitative analysis. Why should anyone take them seriously?

57 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Nope. “Russians did / did not steal the election” are absolute statements, not guesses at probability.

On the other hand, my guess at p=0.1 to p=0.2 can be discussed. It is an invitation to treat the probability as fuzzy, an open question.

58 HL November 2, 2017 at 12:46 pm

The stolen identify of American citizens who zealously want to tear down historical statues of the founding fathers. They are as “American” as the russkies are.

59 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 12:46 pm

p=~0.15 is just my guess, based on the narrow margin in swing states, and the constellation of parallel efforts at hacking the vote.

60 Harun November 2, 2017 at 3:06 pm

Facebook can’t exactly say “our ads are not that effective” because they sell advertising.

But, they are not that effective.

Also, they now see which way the wind is blowing, and they will always, always, always side with the Democrats. This is not news.

61 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Do you notice that “p=0” people like to name one thing at a time? Like the Facebook ads?

What about the hacking of Democrat emails and their release for the election? What about Russian support for Jill Stein? What about all the “organic” astroturfing of American political groups across social media? What about the attempted intrusions into voting machines? What about the Macedonian kids? What about Russian financial support for Trump insiders? What about the media influence of RT?

If you give just a little bit of possibility for each of these things tipping the election, pretty soon you are at p=0.2 cumulatively.

I personally would not go to p=0.5, let alone higher, but some smart people do.

62 msgkings November 2, 2017 at 4:38 pm

Even at p=0.15 you are talking a 5 in 6 chance that Russians didn’t swing the election. Trump won the election, but happily ‘the system/deep state’ is containing him pretty well.

63 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 4:54 pm

Sure msgkings, p=~0.85 that as Tyler says “we should blame our own failings.”

But what confidence do we want for 2024? No one can name a candidate, but should we shoot for higher confidence that the decision is our own?

I think so, that 85% confidence isn’t enough for national sovereignty.

64 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 8:47 pm
65 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 2:40 am

Also, it is incredibly shallow for commenters to just argue p=0 or p=1 for the effect of this hacking/trolling. That only shows that you don’t understand the problem.

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66 M. Klaus November 2, 2017 at 6:19 am

+10000

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67 derek November 2, 2017 at 10:24 am

Hillary had $1.2 billion dollars to spend. The ‘Russians’ spent comparatively small amounts. It seems that they didn’t target anyone, but repeated the current campaign themes from both sides.

The problem is people like you wanting to control what people read. Including your identity.

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68 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 10:45 am

You are committing libel on me, now. I have never wanted to control what people read.

All you admitted “foreign influencers” at MR are a bit bitter and twisted, but at least Thiago leavens it with a bit of humor, and he does it without attacking real Americans in the discussion.

Learn from him.

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69 Harun November 2, 2017 at 3:10 pm

You don’t want me to read Russian facebook ads, right?

We all know where this is going: some government agency will approve all media.

The answer to bad free speech is always more free speech, not less.

Run more ads in Wisconsin next time.

Stop using fear of the Other (the Russians!) to shut down free speech.

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70 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 3:52 pm

You are very confused. The social media companies are not booting Russian and other troll accounts because I asked them.

They were TOSed.

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=TOSed

71 msgkings November 2, 2017 at 4:39 pm

@Harun: the idea is to sound the alerts and fix the system, next time many people will be more skeptical, and the online media will be more vigilant. The norms of the internet are still evolving.

72 Burin November 2, 2017 at 8:28 pm

I believed it p=.5 that many sides are willing to embrace a public position that the Russian ads meaningfully affected the election, despite their private position it’s BS because if that argument wins then Congress and our regulatory bodies gain a huge ability to censor speech by simply implying the speech is manipulative.

After reviewing the example ads, I’m now around p=.8 to .9 this is the truth, because the messaging was so 1:1 with existing political opinions. If a BLM ad is evil/Russian and so should be censored, anybody anti-BLM will embrace the argument the ad was material and requires action. Some of the ads were pro-Trump, pro-Bernie, and Pro-Clinton… so everybody has something positive and political to gain if they happen to be in power when the ability to censor speech becomes real. Couple that with an apparently demonstrated trend of very short-term political thinking (we want this for us, and the other side will never be in power again)… ugly.

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73 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 2:42 am

Wait, wasn’t this all a nothing burger?

‘Overall, one reason Facebook is such a scapegoat is because so many individuals don’t want to admit that Trump simply won the election.’

Or maybe it is because Facebook is demonstrably so easy to use to manipulate American political narratives – ‘Another ad, from a Russian-controlled group called Heart of Texas, announced a rally to take place May 21, 2016, under the banner of “Stop Islamization of Texas.” A separate Russian-controlled group, United Muslims of America, publicized a competing rally to “Save Islamic Knowledge” at the same place and time, prompting two groups to face off in competing demonstrations in Houston — a sign of how Russians hoped to turn divisions into open conflict.’ https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/russian-ads-now-publicly-released-show-sophistication-of-influence-campaign/2017/11/01/d26aead2-bf1b-11e7-8444-a0d4f04b89eb_story.html And unlike in the 1920s, the Russians probably spent a couple of bucks to have those two groups play their Russian written roles.

Anybody who believes that the Russians cared about either group’s goals is willfully blind. Anybody who does not think the Russians were doing their best to weaken America’s faith in its democratic institutions is more than willfully blind at this point, they are the sort of people the Russians were so clearly trying to influence.

‘To the extent you can pin his victory on some kind of conspiracy or wrongdoing’

To the extent that anyone thinks that the Russians care in the least who is president, they are clearly not understanding that the Russians have interests, not friends. The irony being that the if the Russians had any specific goals regarding Trump, they are likely finding themselves in the same position as everyone else who has dealings with Trump – screwed. And to repeat a semi-serious prdiction – don’t be surprised when a bunch of e-mails appear in 2018 that just happen to ensure the maximum number of Democrats are elected to the House to keep the chaos at the top of the American government going.

And really, after that nothing burger prediction, why not wait a while, and let us see where Mueller ends up, shall we? It isn’t as if people in the Trump Administration actually seem to understand just how completely their communications have been archived (really, someone who pled guilty regarding Russian involvement tried to cover his tracks by deleting his Facebook account and changing his cell phone – the government has complete access to Facebook, the same way that it has complete access to that delivery truck’s routing and its driver’s phone).

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74 The Other Jim November 2, 2017 at 7:18 am

Found another one! 🙂

Enjoy your upcoming three years of delusional misery. Or is it seven??

And please keep urging your Dems to just double-down on their 2016 talking points for 2020. Maybe even ramp it all up a bit. It is ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN to work this time. I mean, you merely got robbed in 2016, it had nothing to do with your beliefs.

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75 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 8:14 am

Why do people keep insisting this about Trump? It isn’t.

This is about a dedicated long term opponent of the United States doing its best to follow a now more than 70 year old strategy of undermining a nation that has stood as a bulwark against Soviet/Russian imperial ambition.

And seemingly the Russians, with a former KGB member running their nation, are having no problem in finding Americans willing to go along with their script.

Involving both those for and against Trump, because it seems as if the simplest way to get Americans distracted is to make them feel they have to be on one team or the other.

Trump is a bit player, at best, in what the Russians have already been spending generations attempting to achieve – the weakening of the democratic institutions of the most effective opponent they have ever faced.

(Is this where I need to start writing a disclaimer like the one concerning being pro-Brexit? So –

Trump is America’s legally elected president, the Russians have interests not friends, and the clear reach of such skilled Russian bears as Cozy and Fancy on a global stage shows that the Russians are not merely interested in the U.S. But they seem to have hit paydirt in the U.S. in a way that must be gratifying, especially after the public humiliation the French political system handed Russian efforts by showing how clumsy the Russians actually can be when anyone is actually paying attention to their efforts.)

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76 Alistair November 2, 2017 at 8:27 am

Sure, the Russians are Not Your Friends. Agreed. They want to weaken the US. Agreed.

But the Russians haven’t been driving the Russian collusion narrative. They bailed from this show when the last $ of their $100k went to Mark Zuckerberg. 95% of the entire thing has been driven by the over-reaction of the Democrats and Never-Trumpers. I’m sure the Russians are amazed at how much payoff they have got. But they’re doing / have done almost none of the work or damage.

The Russians haven’t suddenly become super-effective at destabilising the US in the last 10 years (vs 100 years of trying). The Dems have become super-self-righteous snowflakes in the last 10 years and especially the last 1. If they just wanted a grown-up talk about foreign campaign finance laws in the modern digital age that would be fine; instead it’s all “Evil Russian Haxxors stole our election”.

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77 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 9:00 am

‘But the Russians haven’t been driving the Russian collusion narrative.’

No, they continue to deny that they have anything at all to do with any of this. Because if there is one thing that we have all learned since the creation of the shield of the revolution, the word of a KGB member is unimpeachable.

‘They bailed from this show when the last $ of their $100k went to Mark Zuckerberg.’

Nope, the Russians are stingy, and used free tools freely. Such as impersonating the Tennessee GOP on twitter until finally being shut down almost a year after it was first pointed out to twitter the account was fake. Or uploaded youtube videos.

‘95% of the entire thing has been driven by the over-reaction of the Democrats and Never-Trumpers.’

Here I was, thinking that a lot of this was driven by extensive monitoring of Russian communications, such as the Russian ambassador chatting with a man who then lied about the calls. Strange how little we hear about Flynn these days, isn’t it? Who, undoubtedly coincidentally and like many other people described as ‘celebrities,’ also linked to that fake twitter Tennessee GOP account.

‘I’m sure the Russians are amazed at how much payoff they have got.’

One can actually start to doubt that, assuming the Russians had specific interests like sanctions being lifted.

‘The Russians haven’t suddenly become super-effective at destabilising the US in the last 10 years’

Who said last 10 years? The Cozy and Fancy bears seemed to have started their dancing less than 5 years ago – involving a number of nations, not just the U.S. The Russians retain a global perspective, even if Americans seem to have lost theirs. Though the way the French made those dancing bears look like a clown act was entertaining.

‘he Dems have become super-self-righteous snowflakes’

Who cares about the Democrats? The Russians don’t, and let me repeat my semi-serious prediction concerning 2018 – the Russians will release whatever material best serves their interests, and at this point, that will likely involve helping as many Democrats as possible into the House to ensure maximum chaos at the top of the American government.

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78 derek November 2, 2017 at 10:26 am

Who cares about the Democrats? I do because they seem to have fallen for the hooey that Putin is selling.

Getting suckered by someone means you are a sucker, not very smart. The Democrats have been suckered.

Not the electorate. They read Hillary accurately.

79 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 11:13 am

‘I do because they seem to have fallen for the hooey that Putin is selling. ‘

But apparently, at least according to so many commenters here, Putin wasn’t selling anything, and even if he did, it was utterly and completely ineffective.

You really cannot have it both ways – either the Russians did an excellent job in weakening public faith in America’s democratic institutions, or they didn’t. You seem to think that they did, but only because the Democrat’s fell for Putin’s tricks. You know, tricks like publishing a trove of hacked internal e-mails.

Which, assuming one believes court documents concerning a man who pled guity, was known to at least one Trump campaign worker ahead of any public knowledge.

Or do we need to go return to this meeting of a group of suckers? –

‘3 June 2016

Rob Goldstone to Trump Jr

Emin [Agalarov, a Russian pop star represented by Goldstone] just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.

The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras [a Moscow-based developer who tried to partner with Trump in a hotel project] this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.

What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?

I can also send this info to your father via Rhona [presumably Rhona Graff, Trump’s longtime executive assistant], but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.

Trump Jr to Goldstone

Thanks Rob I appreciate that. I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I just speak to Emin first. Seems we have some time and if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer. Could we do a call first thing next week when I am back?’ https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/11/donald-trump-jr-emails-full-text-russia-rob-goldstone

80 Careless November 2, 2017 at 9:58 pm

Nothing I’ve seen of what the Russians did seems close to causing as much discord in America as https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2017/10/30/latino_victory_fund_ad_depicts_ed_gillespie_supporter_terrorizing_minority_children.html

Who knew Eva Longoria was a deep cover Russian agent?

81 Alistair November 3, 2017 at 8:17 am

Prior,

The more one engages you, the greater the sensation of wading through an infinitely recursive set of tangential arguments. You have a singular inability to stick to a point and argue it out. You strawman and dissimilate at every turn.

Either your mind is inchoate, or you are a troll.

82 HL November 2, 2017 at 10:35 am

If one thinks that the US is corrupt and wrong, is there anything wrong with wanting to destabilize it and wanting to build something better?

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83 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 11:15 am

You honestly think that a former KGB member has that in mind for the U.S.? Really?

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84 HL November 2, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Let’s say it’s some rube in rural Michigan instead. He has come to the conclusion that the “system” is working against him and his progeny. From his perspective the destabilizing of the system working against him is a positive. Is that wrong?

85 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 4:41 pm

‘Let’s say it’s some rube in rural Michigan instead.’

Well, I wouldn’t call someone from a rural area a rube, but any American citizen is welcome to participate in American politics. A former member of the KGB, and those working for him, do not enjoy that privilege.

86 msgkings November 2, 2017 at 4:42 pm

Yes, because he’s a whiner blaming ‘the system’ for his problems. It’s no better than blaming the blacks/whites/Mexicans/Jews/gays. Rooting for chaos is childish.

87 Alex November 2, 2017 at 2:52 am

I think this elides a more substantial point about FB, around the fact that their newsfeed can reinforce the info bubble. I know the article focuses on the senate hearings (which I don’t care about), however the various analogies struck me as being off – yes FB is like various other things we have had, just as google is ‘like’ a library or knowledgeable individual. But efficiency increases in one domain don’t have to just impact that domain; we spend more time reading FB than any newspaper or pamphleteer, and they can target us better than selling in a public place. This doesn’t mean the best approach is to just tell FB to ‘fix it’, but also doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem that is bigger than Russian ad buys.

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88 steve November 2, 2017 at 10:00 am

Agree, well-said.

I also don’t think Tyler appreciates the depth of “the anonymity issue”. It’s not just that it isn’t clear, for a given ad, who purchased it: it’s that it isn’t even in principle possible to know what ads financed by whom are shown to what people. It’s algorithmically-driven black boxes all the way down. Good or bad, that’s quite a bit different from someone reading a specific physical text with a pseudonymous author.

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89 Hasdrubal November 2, 2017 at 10:11 am

Of course, the stronger the bubble, the _less effective_ the propaganda. It just gets fed to the true believers, who already have their minds made up. It might fire them up a little more and make them a little more likely to go out and vote, but energizing the base is supposed to be a politician’s core competency. So it’s hard to believe that the Russians are so much more effective at what our politicians focus on that they can have a noticeable impact with 1/1,200 the funding that they could make any kind of noticeable impact.

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90 Burin November 2, 2017 at 8:36 pm

If your hope is to inflame divisions to the point of more internal conflict, isn’t increasing the strength of the information bubble the desired outcome?

It didn’t really matter to the Russians and any other adversary who won, if in the winning the other side hits the streets with fire and pitchforks. Assume Hillary won: If the US is busy quelling actual social conflict (think the 60’s if not the civil war), she can do less against the Russians. Trump won, so the short term is a little better for Russia (perhaps), but the opportunity to reinforce tensions towards actual social combat is still increased.

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91 wiki November 2, 2017 at 1:47 pm

You forget that in its early stages many technologies reinforced bubbles. Radio was initially confined to a few metropolitan centers and helped the view of the elites that New York and the Northeast was the US. The same for television with its live tv shows. If anything, they pushed the views of the NY bubble onto the newly growing TV nation. The reverse was rarely done.

What irks people about the new tech is that bubbles that do not first emanate from the elite coasts can form and persist that promote ideas that the elites have not approved of for decades.

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92 msgkings November 2, 2017 at 4:47 pm

Some truth here, but what irks people about the new tech is more the amplification and normalization of straight up craziness and bullshit. Before, the cranks and nuts could mimeograph weird pamphlets and write letters to the editor. If you wanted to spread that stuff it was very slow going and you had to risk your reputation. Now any idiot can start some bullshit about Pizzagate and it looks real, and so anonymous internet denizens like and retweet it into ‘reality’ at no reputational risk to themselves.

But as I said, the norms are forming as we speak, I suspect this era will be looked back on as part of the growing pains of the noosphere.

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93 apoptosis November 2, 2017 at 3:05 am

I used to resonate with much of what I read here, but I’m increasingly losing touch with Tyler. Can’t put my finger on why, but doesn’t seem like same person. Maybe I was misreading all along.

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94 The Other Jim November 2, 2017 at 7:26 am

It’s the Bloomberg paycheck, combined with 12 months of despair about losing the election. Congrats to him for dropping the anger, and the delusion about Trump just resigning or getting impeached.

But now he grasps that it is over, fair and square, and he has nothing left but the smug self-satisfaction of never having actually needed to speak to a Trump voter in his entire life.

And you just have to love how he states here that too many people blame Facebook and the Russians…. after he cashes his check for writing a piece linking Facebook and the Russians. Pure gold, right there.

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95 Art Deco November 2, 2017 at 1:22 pm

and he has nothing left but the smug self-satisfaction of never having actually needed to speak to a Trump voter in his entire life

The hourly staff at GMU is chock-a-block with Trump voters. He’s had to talk to some of them, just not converse with any of them.

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96 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 4:39 pm

‘The hourly staff at GMU is chock-a-block with Trump voters.’

Most of GMU’s staff are salaried, and generally the only people paid hourly who actually work for GMU and are paid by the Commonwealth of Virginia are students.

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97 BC November 2, 2017 at 3:31 am

If the Russians manage to manipulate us into censoring our own internet, then they will have truly scored a major victory. Some people like to say that, as private firms, Google, Facebook, etc. have the right to censor content. But, that is not what is happening. The government does not have the authority to censor, so they are trying to apply pressure to these internet companies to censor for them, or at least some would have the government do so. I wonder which internet billionaire, in his coming appearance before our resurrected Congressional Un-American Activities Committee, will be the Joseph Welch of the 21st Century.

Russians do not possess some magic ads that can cause people to vote for Trump (or Clinton). If those ads existed, the campaigns themselves would have already been running them. Both campaigns, of course, spent much more than $100k on ads.

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98 M. Klaus November 2, 2017 at 7:05 am

You are really on point on your last sentence. +1 million

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99 Alistair November 2, 2017 at 8:35 am

+1

“The $100k swung it” argument is innumerate from a economics POV, IMHO.

Nearly $2B was spent directly by the candidates, and another $8B or so indirectly by the PACs. Once you start with a linear model with some reasonable assumptions of monotonicity and decreasing marginal returns to ad expenditures, it beggars belief that $100k expenditure at the margin changed more than a few hundred votes. But my experience is that when you attempt to quantify the reasoning for Dem friends and family, you get screamed it.

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100 Lexical Mentat November 2, 2017 at 4:09 am

I agree with what you said, TC, regarding the non-liability of the printing press operators for the tastes of the publishers, but I would like to introduce into your analysis this: the agitator, the riot-monger, the leader of a destructive mob. This fellow signals his/her ability to do damage and then extracts rent for a protection contract. Facebook makes its users’ (and non users too) reputations vulnerable in an instant to a large mob. If before facebook there was a logistical moat of privacy, living-privately, this new forum has filled that moat in with sand. Isn’t it right that people are looking to re-establish a boundary against getting fired or massively shamed for giving umbrage.

A second idea is from Nudge. If a larger ice cream scoop inclines people to eat more ice cream, then perhaps dieticians will have something to say when people are debate what size to fabricate. If “road rage” inducing stories are good for the publisher, then maybe the dietitians of media consumption will have a thing or two to say, validly.

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101 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 4:48 am

I thought of a parallel. Tyler says he just avoids Facebook, but ..

Imagine that a foreign agent thought that Tyler and MR were sufficient thought leaders to leverage off of. This agent creates a “Cowenites for a Better World” page. He begins by reposting authentic contrarian blurbs, develops a following, but then starts dropping in stinkers. He has “Tyler” acting as a divisive agent in American politics. Perhaps Tyler endorses something reprehensible at pizza restaurants.

Protected free speech?

We old internet commenters are used to a little ironic sockpuppetry, but there is something different in kind and scale here. When it ain’t fun anymore, and becomes effective propaganda.

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102 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 5:34 am

Why come up with a strained example when we already have a proven case of the Russians using twitter to impersonate the Tennessee Republican Party, to the tune of apparently millions of potential people seeing fake information attributed to that political organization – ‘Russian operatives used a fake Twitter account that claimed to speak for Tennessee Republicans to persuade American politicians, celebrities and journalists to share select content with their own massive lists of followers, two people familiar with the matter said.

The list of prominent people who tweeted out links from the account, @Ten_GOP, which Twitter shut down in August, includes political figures such as Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, celebrities such as Nicki Minaj and James Woods, and media personalities such as Ann Coulter and Chris Hayes.

There is no evidence that any of them knew the account was run by Russians. Independent researchers had suspected the account was Russian, and their work was confirmed Wednesday by two people familiar with the investigations into the Kremlin’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

The spread of links from the account shows the remarkable reach of a disinformation campaign that harnessed the power of American celebrity and the immediacy of social media to propel messages further, faster and more cheaply than possible even a few years ago.’ https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/michael-flynn-nicki-minaj-shared-content-from-this-tennessee-gop-account-but-it-wasnt-real-it-was-russian/2017/10/18/8b92fcda-b435-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html

And it isn’t as if the Russians likely paid a penny to impersonate an American political party at the state level. Further, twitter was informed of this impersonation by the Tennessee GOP almost a year before the account was actually closed.

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103 Guy Makiavelli November 2, 2017 at 5:46 am

Your example is protected free speech (and deserves to be) and I’m totally perplexed about how you could think otherwise.

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104 clock_prior November 2, 2017 at 6:03 am

Actually, reusing someone’s copyrighted material (which seems to be implied in ‘reposting authentic contrarian blurbs’) is not necessarily protected free speech, though fair use is an issue. However, it is unlikely that fair use covers impersonating someone by reusing their words.

Not that it would be all that difficult to create an obscure disclaimer somewhere on such a site.

Oddly, though, the Russians never felt a need to actually proclaim themselves the creators of the content they were spreading, nor include any disclaimers.

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105 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 9:16 am

“Your example is protected free speech”

I am not a lawyer, but do you mean protected in the Constitutional sense, while perhaps also being a libel?

Again scale.

What happens when a thousand, or ten thousand, sites commit libels? Is there a “take down” system that can keep up?

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106 derek November 2, 2017 at 10:44 am

Was it ever possible to control the whisper and gossip networks pre internet? Of course not. You are describing the landscape. The problem, if there is one, is that the news media believe that Twitter and Facebook represent anyone or anything. They are like CB radio, without the twang.

What this is all about, and very apparent in your comments, is that no one is in control. The news media, manipulated by political campaigns, can’t control the narrative any more.

Dukakis sits in a tank looking distinctly out of place. The photo in every newspaper with unhelpful comments defined him as a presidential candidate. Did it lose the election for him? No, it was his soft on crime policies he implemented while Governor. All it did was cement in people’s minds their opinion.

Both Hillary and Trump had long been defined by their actions, both negative and positive. The issues that Trump used to gain the nomination and presidency were and are real. Same with Hillary, he was a jackass. The election was close and there wasn’t someone to vote for, only to vote against. The Russians and Facebook had nothing to do with this.

I knew he was going to win after being subjected to a three week long 24 hour media bombardment in August and coming out with the same numbers that he went in with. When that didn’t work the idiots who depend on it working are desperate to find something or someone else to blame other than their own ineptitude.

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107 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 10:53 am

That was a non-trollish answer, thanks.

But I think the mega-social networks are different in kind. Four big companies (Facebook, Google, Apple and Twitter) mediate a vast majority of our information. And their share is growing.

Congressional hearings are pushing discussion of what responsibility that brings, but no serious player is arguing “none.”

At a minimum those four are arguing for self-policing.

108 Rz0 November 2, 2017 at 5:18 am

The proper analogy is not a truck, which has little knowledge/concern of what it is carrying. The proper analogy is the obvious one, a newspaper publisher.

Newspaper publishers are responsible for the content of their ads. The landmark libel case Times v. Sullivan revolves around an ad whose content got the paper sued.

What is different now is that millions of people use a medium to publish their ideas to a broader forum. This comment thread is an example, as is the post I’m writing now. We are still struggling as a society to set the rules for who is responsible for that content. There is fairly broad agreement that Facebook or Twitter can’t be held responsible for every item published (though Facebook spends considerable amounts ensuring your feed doesn’t become a cesspool of beheadings and pornography).

I will note that political advertisements in the mainstream media must state what organization is paying for that ad. Had the social media companies voluntarily followed the spirit of that law this controversy would not exist.

I doubt these ads affected the election but I am old enough to remember when conservatives were very concerned about secret Russian influences in American politics. Back then Mark Zuckerberg would have been labeled a pinko, and conservatives would have called Facebook a subversive organization. I think many of us considered that an overreaction, but I’m surprised that so many who would have been so upset back then are sanguine now.

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109 isolda e tristão November 2, 2017 at 6:25 am

Tyler, don’t pretend you’re not susceptible to the more nuanced Russian influence operations.

There is no, as you called it, “wisdom” in Leonid Bershidsky’s columns. He is a kremlin shill tailored to the self-styled impartial/contrarian public. Don’t believe me? Bershidsky recent Bloomberg column about Catalan referendum:

“Ukraine contends that the March 16 referendum, in which Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, took place at gunpoint. That bit, however, is untrue. Neither the “little green men” nor uniformed Russian soldiers were present at polling stations during the vote.”

A kremlin talking point through and through.

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110 Guy Makiavelli November 2, 2017 at 6:53 am

How can people really be that concerned about Facebook ads and Twitter sockpuppets?

There are plenty of “legitimate” organizations such as universities, major media outlets, and “respectable” NGOs which foreign interests fund in support of their interests. And there is plenty of evidence that these “liberal” organizations skew their messages to please their Saudi or Chinese or whatever backers.

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111 Alistair November 2, 2017 at 8:39 am

Hush. It’s not Propoganda if the Liberals do it.

They have Fake News, we have Accredited Fearless Impartial Public Seekers After Truth Without Any Agendas Whatsoever.

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112 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 9:45 am

This was definitely not a symmetrical story. Do you the remember the story of Macedonian teenagerd and their fake-news sites? The for profit ones? They tried right and left wing “crazy news” but dropped the left, because it didn’t get the clicks.

True story.

https://www.wired.com/2017/02/veles-macedonia-fake-news/

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113 derek November 2, 2017 at 10:46 am

So Hillary got beat by a Macedonian teenager with a computer in the basement.

And you think she would have been the better president?

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114 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 11:06 am

That was a trolling answer.

Serious answer:

Whether fake news, hacking, or trolling, tipped the election result is indeterminate.

That should be enough to mobilize Americans to create a stronger system, because “indeterminate” is not acceptable.

115 msgkings November 2, 2017 at 11:56 am

A ham sandwich would be a better president.

Here’s where Trumpies reveal their idiocy. I can understand the argument that one had to vote for Trump to prevent Hillary. Don’t agree with it, Hillary was bad but not as bad as Trump. But I get the mood affiliation of the red tribe and I understand their vote.

But it’s over, she’s gone for good. Any Trump voter who does not now say ‘ok well, she’s out and that’s good, but this guy is awful, let’s find someone better either now or in 2020’ is a blind, stupid partisan.

116 Careless November 2, 2017 at 10:20 pm

That should be enough to mobilize Americans to create a stronger system, because “indeterminate” is not acceptable.

That is an insane suggestion, although obviously Anonymous posts tens of thousands of insane things every day so that shouldn’t be surprising.

There is no conceivable way you could manage a stronger system that makes the exact causes of who voted for whom for what reason known.

117 Anonymous November 3, 2017 at 10:59 am

Strawman, careless.

Would it kill you if messages were verified to originate in the US?

It is technically difficult, but would it impinge your free speech, or restrict democracy?

118 Careless November 3, 2017 at 11:55 am

It’s not “technically difficult” any less than, say, turning the entire universe into paperclips.

Would it kill you if messages were verified to originate in the US?

An incredible waste of resources, but possible. Of course, it wouldn’t do what you were talking about, which was stopping “fake news, hacking, or trolling” from tipping an election

119 Alistair November 3, 2017 at 8:24 am

Probably because the market for left-wing fake news was already saturated by the Huff and NYT? 🙂

Seriously, you must be a bit < +1 SD if you think a single sample anecdotal link with no tight definitions of effect and treatment is going to persuade me.

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120 A Truth Seeker November 2, 2017 at 9:21 am

“And there is plenty of evidence that these “liberal” organizations skew their messages to please their Saudi or Chinese or whatever backers.”

Why shouldn’t they? They are your funder and your closest ally we are talking about. America keeps turning a blind eye to Saudi-backed Sunni terrorism. How many people will have to die to America recognize that Saudi Arabia is the numbermone threat to peace?

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121 rayward November 2, 2017 at 7:18 am

Americans rely on social media to get their news, 44% from Facebook alone and 62% for all social media. Our president gets his news from “the shows”, by which he means “news” broadcast on the Fox Network. Which is more accurate, social media or Fox? Of course, Facebook isn’t really in the news business and instead provides links to those who are; or more accurately, Facebook directs users to the “news” the users are more inclined to agree with in much the same way as Facebook directs advertisements to users inclined to purchase the products being advertised. Cowen is certainly correct that Facebook doesn’t have a duty to filter accurate news from inaccurate news; indeed, how would Facebook distinguish accurate news from inaccurate news. The heart of the problem is twofold: one, news, entertainment, and propaganda are indistinguishable in the media (including social media and general media – television and radio); and two, we are a media-obsessed society. While it’s true that social media has made it possible for anyone to consume news, entertainment, and propaganda anywhere, anytime, there are more than a few homes with the television set fixed on Fox round the clock. But there is a difference: Fox (or CNN or MSNBC) is passive, and depends on viewers choosing the network, while Facebook is not passive but uses data and complex algorithms to feed the “news” to users inclined to agree with it. In this respect, Facebook (and social media generally) is much more efficient at reinforcing not only bias (with both real news and and fake news) but ignorance. Cowen ignores Facebook’s exceptional skill at feeding particular “news” (and other content) to particular users, but I think his larger point is that users have the responsibility not to be passive consumers of whatever Facebook feeds them (and that includes advertisements as well as news, entertainment, and propaganda). Unfortunately, too many are unwilling to make the effort to seek out reliable sources of “news” and too many are willing to be manipulated by spending much of their time on social media. Let’s face it, we are a lazy and ignorant tribe, and prefer to blame somebody else (Facebook) for it.

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122 Gil November 2, 2017 at 9:52 am

Yes. Exactly.

Customized news (and customized fake news) really undermines the “shared experience” of what it means to be an American. This is a new thing and it is increasing polarization and partisanship.

Some folks thrive and profit from polarization, but to me it seems that it weakens America and leaves us unable to tackle big or even small challenges.

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123 The Anti-Gnostic November 2, 2017 at 11:05 am

If only we had some wise and good Gatekeepers who could be given a monopoly on information.

You assume the problem is the medium not the message. The Democrats lost the national election because their politics didn’t appeal to the majority of white voters in key electoral states. When the demographics shift over the next generation and we enter our bright socialistic, identity-politics future, then it’ll be the other tribes’ turn to gloat. Enjoy.

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124 bill November 2, 2017 at 7:44 am

Your points are well taken. And the First Amendment trumps. So here are two caveats where I’d like to see action to the extent thosee measures can be implemented without overstepping the First Amendment.

1. We do have laws regarding political advertising that need to be followed, like “Paid for by…”. Were those laws followed?
2. I just see an inherent difference between books like Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto (each openly arguing their points of view) versus pretending to be your “neighbor” with this or that extreme position. I especially dislike the ones that pose as the worst extremes in a way meant to incite you to counter them.

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125 Pochemuchka November 2, 2017 at 8:04 am

The problem is not that Facebook distributes controversial opinions. The problem is that Facebook (intentionally) distributes blatantly fake, untrue news because they engage users. Like the photo of Seattle Seahawks setting a U.S. flag on fire. You don’t address this point because it is much more inconvenient.

You did a classic straw man. Again.

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126 Careless November 2, 2017 at 10:36 pm

You don’t address this point because it is much more inconvenient.

More likely, because he doesn’t believe it to be true.

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127 Matt November 2, 2017 at 8:07 am

“That’s true, but would the critics be much happier if ads and posts on Facebook simply appeared in linear, chronological order?”

I would. That’s what Usenet did and that’s what Facebook used to do, before FB decided that they knew what I want to see more than I do.

I know choice is scary for FB, since I might not choose to view the content they’d prefer I viewed. But since I view no FB content anymore, largely because of this, it’d still be a step up for them.

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128 msgkings November 2, 2017 at 11:59 am

I can definitely say this whole thing reinforces my satisfaction with never having set up a FB account.

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129 Bill November 2, 2017 at 8:38 am

This sounds a little bit like blame the victim.

But, there is a point that an intelligent and well informed electorate will not be susceptible to false propaganda and politicians will be ethical enough not to disseminate it.

Assume, assume, assume.

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130 Bill November 2, 2017 at 8:40 am

The Intercept ran an article on the high proportion of Russian created tweets Flynn retweeted. Someone can do a study of this assessing the probability of this happening by accident or randomly.

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131 Matt November 2, 2017 at 9:44 am

Blaming the victim isn’t some moral stance that automatically invalidates what the other person said. If the victim is acting in a way that will reasonably result in being victimized, e.g. automatically believing anything that sounds like it agrees with one’s existing beliefs, then it is indeed the victim’s fault.

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132 Bill November 2, 2017 at 10:19 am

That’s true also, but if the propaganda arm of a foreign government doesn’t have to identify itself, when such a rule could be put in place, it certainly is the victims fault for not changing the rules or law.

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133 Matt November 2, 2017 at 10:29 am

Not sure I agree there. What does “A propaganda arm” mean? And more importantly, how would any social media provider enforce such a rule?

For instance, if the Russian government subcontracted to a 3rd party the task of spreading misleading information, but not actually incorrect information through Facebook, does that qualify as “the propaganda arm” of the Russian government? Would that definition change if the contract was to spread outright misinformation?

And how would identifying that be enforced. At most, all the information FB would have is that an account started by a company is posting material. FB or Twitter would have no way to know about any contractual relationship between the contracted company and the Russian Government. Even less so if the contractor involved left their name out of the FB account(s) used and made them look like they’re from private individuals. And that’s exactly how I would imaging a smart misinformation campaign would be handled.

And what happens if Russia, or China since this seems like the sort of thing the Chinese government would do, passes a law prohibiting the disclosure of any relationship between a third party and the government, if any should exist. There’s a great deal of question about how internet content providers interact wil the laws of different countries. But this would potentially place FB/Twitter in the position of having to necessarily break the law in one place in order to uphold it in another.

The admittedly monumental task of teaching critical thinking seems much simpler in comparison.

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134 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 11:00 am

‘What does “A propaganda arm” mean? ‘

This – ‘A collection of leaked documents, published by Moy Rayon, suggests that work at the “troll den” is strictly regulated by a set of guidelines. Any blog post written by an agency employee, according to the leaked files, must contain “no fewer than 700 characters” during day shifts and “no fewer than 1,000 characters” on night shifts. Use of graphics and keywords in the post’s body and headline is also mandatory. In addition to general guidelines, bloggers are also provided with “technical tasks” – keywords and talking points on specific issues, such as Ukraine, Russia’s internal opposition and relations with the West.[21] On an average working day, the workers are to post on news articles 50 times. Each blogger is to maintain six Facebook accounts publishing at least three posts a day and discussing the news in groups at least twice a day. By the end of the first month, they are expected to have won 500 subscribers and get at least five posts on each item a day. On Twitter, the bloggers are expected to manage 10 accounts with up to 2,000 followers and tweet 50 times a day.[33]

In 2015 Lawrence Alexander disclosed a network of propaganda websites sharing the same Google Analytics identifier and domain registration details, allegedly run by Nikita Podgorny from Internet Research Agency. The websites were mostly meme repositories focused on attacking Ukraine, Euromaidan, Russian opposition and Western policies. Other websites from this cluster promoted president Putin and Russian nationalism, and spread alleged news from Syria presenting anti-Western viewpoints.[36]

In August 2015 Russian researchers correlated Google search statistics of specific phrases with their geographic origin, observing increases in specific politically loaded phrases (such as “Poroshenko”, “Maidan”, “sanctions”) starting from 2013 and originating from very small, peripheral locations in Russia, such as Olgino, which also happens to be the headquarters of the Internet Research Agency company.[37] The Internet Research Agency also appears to be the primary sponsor of an anti-Western exhibition Material Evidence.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_brigades

135 Matt November 2, 2017 at 12:25 pm

clockwork_prior:

There’s a huge difference between one example and an actionable legal definition. Unless your one example *is* the definition, but that means no other example fits the definition.

That’s the problem with making wide sweeping laws to address a single issue.

136 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 4:36 pm

‘That’s the problem with making wide sweeping laws to address a single issue.’

I have not said anything about making any laws. You simply asked what is a propaganda arm, and information was provided. Though it was listed below, maybe you could read this, concerning that propaganda arm – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/18/woman-who-sued-pro-putin-russian-troll-factory-gets-one-rouble-in-damages

And I believe she won her court decision before Trump announced his intention to run as a Republican presidential candidate, by the way.

137 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 10:09 am

Many people are treating this in a “my ox was not gored” way.

Try not to hang out the “pro-dem Chinese hackers welcome” sign too early. Let it be a wonderful surprise for 2020.

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138 Bill November 2, 2017 at 10:20 am

Or, the Israelis.

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139 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 10:20 am

Come now, the Chinese are just as devoted to America being dominant in Asia as the Russians are to America being dominant in Europe.

I’m sure that a man who seems to feel he is a worthy successor to Mao in guiding ChinaÄs glorious future will be just as helpful to American democracy as a former KGB agent.

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140 Hasdrubal November 2, 2017 at 10:34 am

The more I hear about Russian involvement, the more I think that this story would be trivialized and people called “Russianers” had Hillary won.

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141 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 10:49 am

If it wasn’t for the pesky fact that the Russians hadn’t spread so many e-mails that they collected. Oddly, those pointing out such massive hacking efforts against President Hillary Clinton would likely be dismissed in much the same fashion that Bill Clinton’s attempts to get Bin Laden were – as an attempt to use a foreign enemy to distract from domestic politics.

Which is another thing that oddly seems not to be brought up with all this talking about Facebook. And only the most naive think that the cuddly Russian Cozy and Fancy bears were interested in only one party’s internal communications.

( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Infinite_Reach – ‘Operation Infinite Reach was the codename for American cruise missile strikes on al-Qaeda bases in Khost, Afghanistan, and the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, on August 20, 1998. The attacks, launched by the U.S. Navy, were ordered by President Bill Clinton in retaliation for al-Qaeda’s August 7 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people (including 12 Americans) and injured over 4,000 others. Operation Infinite Reach was the first time the United States acknowledged a preemptive strike against a violent non-state actor.

—————————————

The missile strikes on al-Qaeda’s Afghan training camps, aimed at preempting more attacks and killing bin Laden, damaged the installations and inflicted an uncertain number of casualties; however, bin Laden was not present at the time. Following the attacks, the ruling Taliban allegedly reneged on a promise to Saudi intelligence chief Turki al-Faisal to hand over bin Laden, and the regime instead strengthened its ties with the al-Qaeda chief. )

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142 Hazel Meade November 2, 2017 at 10:42 am

and also a way to feel better about parts of your country.

Yeah. It’s tempting to believe that Trump didn’t legitimately win (the EC anyhow) , because then we could pretend that the alt-right has no influence and doesn’t matter. We could all go back to pretending that outright racists are 5% of the population and not 15-20%.

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143 The Anti-Gnostic November 2, 2017 at 11:12 am

Anglo-Europeans are evenly divided–they’re the only ones debating ideology. Non-AE’s are intensely tribal and monolithically Democratic, with a few exceptions such as (to my observation) the Sikhs and Koreans.

I guess you’re Imperial Eschaton will have to be postponed.

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144 Hazel Meade November 2, 2017 at 11:28 am

Non-AE’s are intensely tribal and monolithically Democratic

Non-AE’s includes a lot of caucasians doesn’t it? Russians, Slavs, Poles, Italians, Greeks. Most of these people have been absorbed into mainstream “white” American society, and AFAICT have the same voting patterns.

As far as other groups are concerned, it’s easy to be tribal if you”re being othered by the majority of society. Look at Jews in America. You can go from a time where Jews were ostracized and othered – and yeah, they kept to themselves in ethnic enclaves, because they had to. Now that they are no longer being ostracized, mainstream Jews are thoroughly assimilated into US “white” culture.

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145 The Anti-Gnostic November 2, 2017 at 11:59 am

That’s why I used the term Anglo-European, Hazel. The Slavs are on the border of the Hajnal lines but have more in common with us than the Global South or various ethnic Muslims, whom they have a long and continuing history of keeping out.

Jews carry their nation with them wherever they go. They welcome their children into the Nation of Israel at puberty. Their exuberantly nationalist ethnic homeland is doing quite well, nestled among large numbers of Arabic-speaking Muslims who hate them and wish they were dead.

Do you even know where human diversity comes from or how to manage it? Do you allow yourself to think that maybe this is what separate countries are for? Libertarians seem to be all for decentralized systems except when it comes to human diversity.

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146 Art Deco November 2, 2017 at 1:40 pm

Non-AE’s are intensely tribal and monolithically Democratic, with a few exceptions such as (to my observation) the Sikhs and Koreans

Arguably true vis a vis the black population and some Hispanic fractions, like Puerto Ricans and California Chicanos. The Oriental and East Indian populations and other Hispanic fractions are much more variegated. (Voting blacks were as well prior to 1964).

A hypothesis: the tribalism is more reactive than solidaristic: Jews voting Democratic because they are repelled by evangelicals and bluebloods, blacks voting Democratic because they are repelled by Dan-Quayle-type suburban bourgeois, Orientals voting Democratic because they fancy the Republicans are the party of uneducated people, &c.

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147 Art Deco November 2, 2017 at 1:32 pm

We could all go back to pretending that outright racists are 5% of the population and not 15-20%.

There are all manner of subcultural antagonisms, Hazel. You’re fixated on those one might find (now and again) in trailer parks and not those you find in law offices or on faculties or on movie sets. I’d tell you to quit being obtuse if I thought it would do any good.

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148 Hazel Meade November 2, 2017 at 3:30 pm

The people in the trailer parks are having a bigger negative impact on my life, via the Trump administration, than the ones in the law offices faculties and movie sets, at the moment.

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149 Bill Kilgore November 2, 2017 at 6:19 pm

What tangible impact has the Trump Administration made in your life?

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150 Careless November 2, 2017 at 10:41 pm

You are such a bigoted asshole.

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151 mike November 2, 2017 at 11:06 am

Just outside of St. Petersburg there’s a facility that produces and distributes statistics for use in blog comments.

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152 The Anti-Gnostic November 2, 2017 at 11:12 am

Link please? My Russian paycheck is waiting.

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153 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 11:16 am

See above – but they only pay 700 dollars a month – and the Russians aren’t interested in paying Americans, they prefer Americans to do their work for free.

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154 The Anti-Gnostic November 2, 2017 at 12:03 pm

No. I don’t want a link to Wikipedia linking in turn to journalist outlets. I want the source for all these statistics with which to bedevil my detractors and pay for my child’s tuition.

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155 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Would this meet your standards? ‘ The Internet Research Agency, Max told Dozhd, consisted of a “Russian desk” and a “foreign desk.” The Russian desk, which was primarily made up of bots and trolls, used fake social-media accounts to flood the internet with pro-Trump agitprop and made-up news throughout the US presidential campaign, especially in the days leading up to the November election.

The foreign desk had a more sophisticated purpose, according to Max, who worked in that department. “It’s not just writing ‘Obama is a monkey’ and ‘Putin is great.’ They’ll even fine you for that kind of [primitive] stuff,” he told Dozhd. In fact, those who worked for the foreign desk were restricted from spreading pro-Russia propaganda. Rather, Max said, their job was more qualitative and was geared toward understanding the “nuances” of American politics to “rock the boat” on divisive issues like gun control and LGBT rights.

“Our goal wasn’t to turn the Americans toward Russia,” he added. “Our task was to set Americans against their own government: to provoke unrest and discontent, and to lower Obama’s support ratings.” http://nordic.businessinsider.com/former-troll-russia-disinformation-campaign-trump-2017-10/

156 The Anti-Gnostic November 2, 2017 at 12:23 pm

No. That’s a link to an article about a Russian operation. I want the Russian operation. I assume the insidious Russians know how the Internet works and will have a link to their fake news, flim-flammery and balderdash to assure broadest possible distribution. I hear also they’ll pay. Waiting.

157 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 4:30 pm

‘I want the Russian operation.’

? – but maybe you can get in touch with Lyudmila Savchuk, at 192 007, Санкт-Петербург улица Воронежская, дом 33 А, 4 этаж, +7 921 593-13-27

After all, she did win a court case against them in 2015 – ‘A Russian court has ordered a secretive pro-Putin “propaganda factory” to pay symbolic damages to an employee who sued them in a bid to expose the workings of the Kremlin’s online trolls.

The Agency for Internet Studies, which hired people to write pro-Kremlin propaganda from a nondescript St Petersburg address, was sued by ex-employee Lyudmila Savchuk for alleged non-payment of wages and for failing to give workers proper contracts.

The freelance journalist claimed she had gone undercover as a pro-government internet troll to expose the outfit.

A judge ordered the shadowy agency to pay Savchuk symbolic damages of one rouble after the two sides had earlier agreed on compensation worth one month’s salary.

“I am very happy with this victory. I achieved my aim, which was to bring the internet trolls out of the shade,” said Savchuk, 34.’
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/18/woman-who-sued-pro-putin-russian-troll-factory-gets-one-rouble-in-damages

158 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 4:51 pm

So, just for you, enjoy the opportunity to contact those fun loving Russians – http://glavset.ru/

You might not want to ask for Mr. Prigozhin directly, tbough.

159 The Anti-Gnostic November 2, 2017 at 4:59 pm

In ENGLISH, you silly Kraut.

160 Boonton November 2, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Let’s be clear, what happened was not acceptable. Trump and his people actively and illegally sought aid from a foreign government on their behalf in the election. Russia opted to intervene in our election and tipped the balance. Don’t lecture about just accepting that Trump won. Trump won by losing. Trump lost as much as he could lose and still win the election… That is disturbing but the system does allow that to happen in a marginal case. What is troublesome, though is:

1. Trump appears to embrace losing the vote while keeping power in contrast to Bush who approached the loss of the popular vote as a requirement to expand his popularity.

2. Trump clearly likes a Putin style approach to the media. Unlike with Putin, this is not working for him because the US media is too large and too free to be captive like the Russian media is. Hence Russia can run absurd memes of ‘macho shirtless Putin’ and deploying thousands of tweetbots to wish their President a happy birthday and the Russian population falls for it. Trump’s ill fated communications director blathers about how much he ‘loves Trump’ and the whole thing just looks creepy and stupid to most Americans.

There is, however, some positive hope here. I recall images of the first televised commercials for Eisenhower and the cool, neat looking JFK in the televised Presidential debate generations ago. They were impressive new things at the time and they probably made the difference. Today the commercials look cheesy and, until recently, not looking like a fool in a Presidential debate was the low bar.

I suspect next go around thousands of tweet and facebook bots pretending to have secret news about the Democratic candidate will be seen with a dose more skepticism.

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161 Harun November 2, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Clinton paid cut-outs to contact Russian officials for dirt on her opponent.

Who, again, is colluding to influence the election?

Seriously, the big piece of dirt that excites so many is a pee tape.

What agency in Russia would secretly film people? Their spies.

So you want information from Russian spies to sway an election!

Finally, I don’t even think a pee tape would do it. Its his kink. Who cares.

But you think it would, and you’re willing to pay Russian spies for this, even though most likely they rolled your candidate for the money.

Hmmmmmm, directly colluding with Russian spies or some Facebook ads….which seems more dangerous.

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162 Boonton November 2, 2017 at 3:55 pm

“Clinton paid cut-outs to contact Russian officials for dirt on her opponent.”
“Who, again, is colluding to influence the election?”

Actually you mean to say Conservative Republicans began paying a consultant to amass dirt on Trump. When Trump beat Rubio, Cruz, et al. for the nomination the project was dropped and the consultants sold their project to the Democrats.

A campaign is free to pay people to do work for it. It can pay an advertising company to craft an ad (even if the agency is foreign or has people from around the world who will work on it). It can pay lawyers, even foreign ones, for advice and opinions. It can pay researchers to dig up dirt. Since Trump apparently has done a lot of business in Russia opposition research, by its nature, would require someone talking with people from Russia. It’s quite a bit of chutzpah to argue, as Trumpists do, that the law implies the CIA must ignore Trump’s people chatting it up with Russian spies, his political opponents can’t look into what he was/is doing in Russia etc.

A campaign is not free to ‘get stuff for free’ from foreign nationals. That is also known as a ‘campaign donation’ (which can be money but also work product).

The law doesn’t say anything about collusion. That’s a talking point of the Trump team. Collusion implies some type of back and forth….”ohhh that dirt isn’t exciting, can you find me better dirt…that’s it cool”. you don’t need to ‘collude’ in this sense to break the law. If you were conspiring to buy illegal drugs, asking the undercover narc for crack is breaking the law. You don’t need a ‘taste testing’ first and then place an order for a customized flavor.

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163 Anonymous November 2, 2017 at 4:37 pm

The central error in this “both sides” is that “both sides” do not connect back to crimes committed in the US.

Hiring a consultant to talk to people and compile a report is not a crime.

Hacking domestic emails is a crime. Funding domestic campaigns and campaign principals in violation of election law? Same.

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164 Alistair November 3, 2017 at 8:29 am

Hush Harun, there is Goodsex and Badsex. Didn’t you know?

If it involves Trans or LGBQTABCDEFGHIJKL…. then it’s good and should be celebrated for its bravery.

Otherwise it’s bad.

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165 Anonymous November 3, 2017 at 11:01 am

There is sex and there is rape, Alistair. Which was hacking the emails? Which was attempted in voting machine intrusions?

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166 HL November 2, 2017 at 1:39 pm

For those who don’t believe in borders what’s the difference between Russian influence and Koch Brother influence?

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167 Boonton November 2, 2017 at 3:57 pm

I’m fine with open borders. Just let Germany, the UK, France, Spain, Canada, Mexico and everyone else know they can donate to Hillary’s campaign rather than just having Russia do it illegally on the sly.

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168 HL November 2, 2017 at 4:44 pm

I’m not much of a TV watcher, does the BBC opine much on our elections?

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169 Boonton November 3, 2017 at 7:14 am

opining isn’t the issue.. This you know.

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170 Alistair November 3, 2017 at 8:31 am

HL,

Oh God, like you wouldn’t believe. The BBC knows exactly who you should vote for.

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171 Boonton November 3, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Can the BBC have talking heads spend 24-7 telling anyone who will listen that Hillary would be a better President than Trump? Sure. Can Hillary accept donations from the BBC like cash or even free ad time or ‘opposition research’ from the BBC? No. Can Hillary buy commercial time on BBC websites or reports at market price? Yes.

172 HL November 4, 2017 at 12:54 pm

So you’re cool with RT (Russian Propaganda) and the BBC (British Propaganda) spewing whatever they want? Is that not “free ad time” from foreign governments, whichever direction it may go?

173 Dmitry November 2, 2017 at 2:44 pm

As a Russian I’ve been watching the whole Russians-used-the-FB-to-elect-Trump story in disbelief: Russian government for years has been remarkably cumbersome and clumsy in using social media, losing almost every topic, except for Crimea and Ukraine, to the opposition. Most of the pro-government social media campaigns have shown that our government barely understands how it works.
Actually, the opposition in Russia, being deprived of traditional communication channels (save for several business newspapers traditionally supporting liberal views), almost entirely rules the blogosphere, with Navalny being the prime example.
So, Tyler, I could not agree more – it seems that the US intellectuals simply cannot accept the fact that their country managed to elect a really, hm, controversial president and therefore, try to blame an external force.

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174 The Anti-Gnostic November 2, 2017 at 3:15 pm

This is just blatant. I’m calling Homeland Security.

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175 clockwork_prior November 2, 2017 at 4:23 pm

‘losing almost every topic, except for Crimea and Ukraine, to the opposition’

Yep, Putin losing his last election was a real shocker. Though these people seem to be doing OK, oddly enough – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All-Russia_People's_Front

‘almost entirely rules the blogosphere’

The two Russian speakers I know would find this assertion hilarious, considering their previous comments on the subject.

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176 Erik November 2, 2017 at 5:10 pm

This will probably be lost among the Trump-trolling, but I actually have a Facebook point.

You say “Critics may argue that Facebook isn’t so much like a phone company because it uses complex algorithms to decide what to place before our eyes. That’s true, but would the critics be much happier if ads and posts on Facebook simply appeared in linear, chronological order?”

I say two things: First, yes. I would be happier with a chronological order, as it would give me a fighting chance to ever find something again. Every time you click over to read an article, Facebook re-orders the list, not showing you stuff you’ve seen *even if you NOW want to comment* after reading. This is especially bad on mobile, where it’s not possible to open something in another tab.

Secondly, it’s not just that they show things out of order. They use their “smart” algorithm to push unmarked ads (excuse me, promoted content) into my feed. This is your delivery truck showing up and giving you a mix of manure and malware with your packages – not what you wanted, and there’s no way to get the package without the manure.

If you’re not paying for the service, you’re the product, and the company really doesn’t care how the product feels about it. Alas, there’s no viable alternative due to network effects.

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177 Erik November 2, 2017 at 5:16 pm

A followup note for non FB users: there is no effective search within Facebook. Google can’t effectively index it, and Facebook doesn’t provide it. Your only hope of ever finding anything again is if you remember who posted the link to it, and go look on their timeline in particular… and hope they aren’t posting at commercial volumes or it’s hopeless anyway. It’s as bad as trying pre-internet to find that article you saw in your local paper a week or so ago, which is inexcusable with today’s technology.

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178 Boonton November 3, 2017 at 7:35 pm

I think this demonstrates why Facebook is a pretty poor vehicle for discussing things but again my perspective is that this is learning on the public’s part just like the first spam emails probably generated some decent clicks and sales, they now barely work unless your’re sending out millions.

In the future I suspect the person who votes based on ‘news articles’ they see on Facebook that can’t be found anywhere else will be like the person who sends their life savings to the Nigerian Prince.

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179 Larry November 3, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Aren’t they mad at Facebook because they didn’t ensure that she won, because they could have?

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180 Enrique November 8, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Can we at least blame Facebook for making our failings so much worse?

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