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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

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

4 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.

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