Feb 17, 2018

Facebook exec: Russians wanted to divide Americans, not sway election

Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images

Facebook Vice President of Ad Product Rob Goldman tweeted Friday that he can "very definitively" say that swaying the election was not the main objective of the Russian actors that meddled in the 2016 elections using social media, but rather sowing discord was their goal.

Why it matters: Facebook executives have been saying for months that the majority of Russian ad spend occurred after the election, meaning the objective of the Russians was to cause disruption and division among Americans, not tip ballots.

Goldman says few outlets are reporting their intent this way because "it doesn’t align with the main media narrative of Tump and the election."

Our thought bubble: The biggest story out of the Mueller indictment should be what was learned about the sophistication of the tools and operations used to weaponize social media. Bad actors will always have different reasons for abusing technology. Staying ahead of their ability to misinform users is what matters.

Goldman says the main goal of the Russian misinformation effort is to divide America "by using our institutions, like free speech and social media, against us."

  • According to Gallup, trust in American institutions is at an all-time low, particularly amongst new on the internet.
  • Goldman says their efforts have stoked fear and hatred amongst Americans. "It is working incredibly well. We are quite divided as a nation."

He argues the best demonstration of Russia's true motives is the Houston anti-islamic protest that occurred in May 2016. Russians using fake identities to pose as real Americans were able to lure people from both sides of a societal issues to spark a real street protest.

Goldman says fighting misinformation wars can be done using education. He points to examples of Nordic countries with digital literacy teachings as an example of ways to combat misinformation.

Go deeper

Mass shooting in Milwaukee: What we know so far

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2012. Photo: John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

Six people died in a shooting at the Milwaukee Molson Coors brewery complex on Wednesday, including the shooter, Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters at an evening press conference with local police.

What's happening: Police said "there is no active threat" just before 6 pm ET, but noted the scene remains active. Police chief Alfonso Morales told reporters that officers have "more than 20 buildings we have to secure" at the complex and they do not currently have all employees accounted for, as more than 1,000 were at the complex during the shooting.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 20 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Live updates: CDC confirms possible community spread of coronavirus

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

U.S. clinicians have found the novel coronavirus in a person who did not recently return from a foreign country nor have contact with a confirmed case, the CDC said Tuesday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,700 people and infected over 81,000 others. By Wednesday morning, South Korea had the most cases outside China, with 1,261 infections. Europe's biggest outbreak is in Italy, where 374 cases have been confirmed.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 36 mins ago - Health

Trump assigns Pence to lead U.S. coronavirus response


President Trump announced at a press briefing Wednesday evening that he'll be putting Vice President Mike Pence in charge of leading the administration's response to the coronavirus.

The big picture: In the wake of a market sell-off and warnings from health officials that there's a real threat of the coronavirus spreading in the U.S., Trump sought to reassure the nation and Wall Street that the U.S. is "ready" for whatever comes next.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy