So it turns out Russians did try to undermine President Trump‘s victory immediately after the November elections after all.
Facebook and Twitter‘s top lawyers told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that their social networks carried Russian-linked posts and advertisements after Nov. 8 that were aimed at “fomenting discord about the validity of [Trump’s] election,” Politico reported.
Fake accounts believed to be linked to a Russian troll farm called the Internet Research Agency were eventually taken down on Facebook, according to the social network’s general counsel Colin Stretch. Sean Edgett, Twitter’s acting general counsel agreed that accounts previously focused on divisive issues and Hillary Clinton turned to questioning Trump’s legitimacy as president after the election.
“During the election, they were trying to create discord between Americans, most of it directed against Clinton. After the election you saw Russian-tied groups and organizations trying to undermine President Trump’s legitimacy. Is that what you saw on Facebook?” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina asked at the hearing.
Stretch and Edgett described Graham’s words as “accurate,” according to Politico.
Representatives of Facebook, Google and Twitter testified publicly for the first time at Tuesday’s hearing about alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election on their platforms, and will face the Senate and House Intelligence Committees on Wednesday as investigations continue.
The Russian anti-Trump social media activity revealed on Tuesday is apparently typical of Kremlin efforts, according to an international cyber policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Their goal is to create confusion and dissent. The target is the U.S. and NATO, not any particular candidate. They just want chaos,” James Lewis said. “It went from being a grudge match against Clinton to what they thought was a priceless opportunity to inflict harm.”
According to Politico:
The Silicon Valley giants have been slow to reckon with Russian use of social media to undermine American democracy. Days after the election — amid criticism that Facebook allowed the spread of hoax stories and misinformation — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it was a “pretty crazy idea” that fake news on Facebook influenced the vote. But as reports have piled up about Russian manipulation, Zuckerberg last month said he regretted being dismissive about the concerns, though he continued to argue that Facebook had a “far bigger” positive effect by giving people and candidates a place to communicate.
Democrats at the hearing homed in on the harm done by online disinformation to their candidate, Clinton, when the election was still up for grabs.
“How did Facebook, which prides itself on being able to process billions of data points and instantly transform them into personal connections for its user[s], somehow not make the connection that electoral ads — paid for in rubles — were coming from Russia?” Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken said. “Those are two data points: American political ads and Russian money, rubles. How could you not connect those two dots?”
“It’s relatively easy for bad actors to switch currencies. So it’s a signal but not enough,” Stretch said and revealed that Facebook has 150 people devoted to vetting content of suspected terror-related activity.
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