The hounds of Robert Mueller are hot on the heels of Donald Trump. Headlines today read things like “Mueller Goes For The Kill” and “Mueller Closes In“, as the announcement came in that the focus of the investigation has honed in on Russian use of social media as a way to spread fake news against Hillary Clinton.
Russia’s effort to influence U.S. voters through Facebook and other social media is a “red-hot” focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election and possible links to Donald Trump’s campaign ties to Russia, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
The Russian Facebook campaign also seems to include the first evidence of Russian operatives attempting to organize actual political events on American soil, as opposed to just spreading fake news and memes around social media.
But Facebook was not alone. Twitter also allows for many ways to pay for your following. For example, comedian Joe Mande has just over a million followers. It sounds pretty good, until you read the bio on his site.
“twitter is trash, facebook’s the devil, i bought a million followers for like $400“. Wow.
The way that social media keeps score, is with Likes, Shares, and Followers. The most famous people have millions of them. However, not all of these accounts are real. Some of them are “bots”, artificial accounts created for the purpose of making a person look more popular and important than they really are.
Twitter Audit, a service that allows you to test the authenticity of your followers, was used in January by journalist Yashar Ali on Trump’s Twitter account. He found that 68 percent of his then-20 million followers were real. He’s at 37 million followers now but only 45% percent are real. Likewise, Bernie Sanders has an even worse score, at 39%.
A personal anecdote. The editor of Millennial Democrats was online alongside legions of others, out there for HRC from 2015 onward, every day, for many hours. Anyone who was there back then can tell you. It can be stated categorically that there was a tangible, palpable disinformation campaign going on. You would go into groups and talk to people, who were steadfast in their refusal to listen far beyond the bounds of reason or even fanaticism. These guys were professionals.
It was like they were getting paid per response. They all seemed to be equipped with the same list of hit points about Hillary Clinton. This became clear after a while because the very same slanders would be laid out every time, in sequential order. In many cases the wording was actually identical, although most took the time to switch about at least a thing or two.
It got especially bad during the last month of the Democratic primary, which was a very horrible time filled with chaos and division. During this time, we were savagely attacked. Anything we posted would be Reported as Spam/Abuse by political adversaries from both the far right and left. We were barraged with nasty messages and threats. One particularly rabid group of Bernie Sanders supporters told one of our contributors that they hoped she was gang-raped. The list is very long, and very sordid.
We had wanted to make our voices heard, and to make a difference in our own futures. Instead, we found ourselves on the front lines of a virtual battlefield, fighting the first skirmishes in this new kind of proxy war we were to be fighting with the Russians.
Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites have increasingly come to be viewed as our most vulnerable area for national security. The United States does not have a ready defense to prevent such attacks.
At the time, nobody wanted to listen, but it became clear before long that we were not paranoid, although it was difficult not to come off that way in real life conversations. We expected a certain amount of eye-rolling, and we got it.
People can hardly be blamed. The whole thing was pretty implausible. Even our intelligence agencies were not fully aware of what was going on. This kind of thing has never happened here before. This sort of attack has in the past been used only by superpowers against small, Third World countries. We were never considered so vulnerable.
The anger and despair caused by the 2016 election opened a door. The smear job on Hillary Clinton represented a quarter- century’s work and God only knows how many millions of dollars on the part of the GOP. They had long ago ensured there was no end of mud to sling. And trusty Wikileaks was always around to make sure there was no shortage of new indecencies.
This, combined with the rabidity and overzealousness of a dangerously high percentage of far-left supporters of Bernie Sanders made for an extremely nasty cocktail of filth for the Russians to fling about on social media, amplifying their messages through a mixture of robot armies and highly targeted advertising.
Regular folks who go to work and don’t have time to study these things for twelve hours a day cannot be fully blamed if they fell for it. We were targeted specifically by a brand new strategy developed by a cunning and ruthless man, bent on world domination. What is most important now is that we all wake up to it.
Millennial Democrats did a series of interviews for this piece from the people most intimately involved. The administrators and moderators of Facebook groups and pages that supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 remain dedicated to the Democratic Party, its platform, and its ideals. We are out here even now, still fighting the good fight.
One source, who has screened new member requests for several dozen pro- Democratic Party Facebook groups since before the election began, made the following statement under the conditions of anonymity.
“From mid May 2017 to the end of July 2017, roughly 80% of the new member request were rabidly pro- Bernie Sanders supporters with profiles that appeared to be hijacked from the real owners or that were simply fake accounts. They seemed to have been created for the purpose of loading them up with pro Sanders, anti Democratic Party fake news to be spread by computer generation across Facebook.”
Even now, it remains far from over. Ordinarily, the months after such a chaotic election would be the slow season for politics. Spring and summer tend to be when people are out having fun. Unfortunately, both the stakes and the polarity of our atmosphere have become too high to allow for this.
Too high a level of polarity will destroy a culture. It causes a communication breakdown which leads to fighting. This polarity was not created by the Russians, but it was systematically financed, and worsened by them, using techniques so ugly they can only be referred to as antisocial media. It is now time for Facebook to answer to Congress and to the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, for what they allowed.