Diary

Russian Facebook Ads Not Quite Fitting the Narrative

Discussions on Russian interference in the 2016 election typically break down into three groups of people. Those that think nothing happened, those that believe Trump colluded with Russia, and then there are those like myself.

Given the preponderance of evidence (or lack there of), I believe that Russia’s goal was always to simply cause confusion, division, and political discord. If you can get Americans questioning their very system of governance, then that’s a win for the Kremlin. Because of the hysteria perpetrated by liberal Democrats and some anti-Trump conservatives, Russia has seen a bounty from their efforts they never dreamed of.

More and more, evidence is surfacing to support the latter theory. It being that this wasn’t about a starting preference for Trump in the positive, but rather that Russia saw sowing chaos in the 2016 as yet another avenue to weaken the United States and it’s influence. By picking pressure points and pushing contention, they largely succeeded.

Today CNN reported that those 3,000 facebook ads bought by Russian backed sources aren’t quite fitting the Trump-Russia narrative the way some had hoped. A deeper dive is showing that many of the ads attempted to play both sides and were in fact not targeted to help Donald Trump…

The Black Lives Matter ad appeared on Facebook at some point in late 2015 or early 2016, the sources said. The sources said it appears the ad was meant to appear both as supporting Black Lives Matter but also could be seen as portraying the group as threatening to some residents of Baltimore and Ferguson.

New descriptions of the Russian-bought ads shared with CNN suggest that the apparent goal of the Russian buyers was to amplify political discord and fuel an atmosphere of incivility and chaos, though not necessarily to promote one candidate or cause over another. Facebook’s review of Russian efforts on its platform focused on a timeframe from June 2015 to May 2017.

That’s kind of a big deal isn’t it? CNN national security analyst Steve Hall continues with this statement…

“This is consistent with the overall goal of creating discord inside the body politic here in the United States, and really across the West,” Steve Hall, the former CIA officer and CNN National Security Analyst, said. “It shows they the level of sophistication of their targeting. They are able to sow discord in a very granular nature, target certain communities and link them up with certain issues.”

It’s not just about these ads though. As was reported yesterday on RedState, there was an influx of Russian-American donations into the 2016 election. While none of that is illegal, it’s worth noting that the money wasn’t specifically targeted to Trump. It went to all manner of politicians and causes, from Hillary, to Trump, to Rubio, to the Clinton Foundation.

Apparently even the Russians are smart enough to not give money to Bernie though.

Of course, it’s not enough that there’s still zero evidence of collusion and that these latest revelations actually show a contrary motive for Russia. The conspiracy must live on…

The targeting issue is also important because, if it appears that the targeting was particularly sophisticated, questions may be raised about how the Russians knew where to direct their ads. Further, information about the targeting could help investigators determine whether or not there was collusion between these ad buyers and the Trump campaign.

Republican Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the committee, said Tuesday that there’s “no evidence yet” that Russians and Trump officials colluded on the Facebook ads, but said it’s an area the committee continues to investigate.

Yes, so very sophisticated. So sophisticated that any half-wit can target a geographic location with a  facebook ad in about five minutes. I’ll give you the answer on how Russia targeted these ads and maybe save Congress a few million bucks in the process.

They watched the freaking news to see where the divisions were.

It doesn’t take much of an effort to surmise that the country was divided about the circumstances surrounding Ferguson. Nor does it take collusion for Russian trolls to know to target Hillary’s corruption, as she was the hands down favorite to win at the time. Hillary running away with the election would of diminished Russia’s efficiency of action during the campaign. Better to have both sides eating each other until election day and beyond.

This is why you saw a shift later in the election cycle when it appeared clear that Hillary was going to win. The tone of the interference changed to focusing on sabotaging her supposed Presidency. After Trump won, we saw Russia’s strategy change yet again.

The Russians have always been about undermining western democracies. The 2016 election was yet another attempt by them to cause fissures in and lower the stature of the United States. Were the methods different? Yes. Technology advances but the motive remains the same.

There’s one more point to be made here and that has to do with the actual size of this attempt by Russia. In all, Russian backed groups only bought about $100,000 in ads. It’s inconceivable that such a tiny ad buy could of affected much of anything. One of the oldest strategies in the book is to project more strength than actually exists and Russia has perfected this.

The more people feed into conspiracy theories and continue to see a Russian under every bed, the more Putin sits back and laughs at how great his plan is going. We have the power to change that but politics will continue to get in the way.