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

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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.

Jonathan Swan 1 hour ago
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Trump's two-front war

Photo: Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump is ending the week with a flop — nowhere close to the border wall funding he wanted in the DACA-less spending bill that congressional leaders released last evening. But he's fulfilling one of his most aggressive campaign promises with his anti-China trade action.

The big picture: Trump's expected announcement today of tariffs on Chinese imports is a big deal, and analysts fear it could provoke a trade war — and it comes as Trump has been battling his own party here at home over the government spending bill.

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The worst flu season in eight years

Note: Activity levels are based on outpatient visits in a state compared to the average number of visits that occur during weeks with little or no flu virus circulation; Data: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

This year's flu season caught many experts off guard with both its sustained prevalence and its virulence. At its peak, there was a higher level of flu-like illnesses reported than any other year during the past eight years. Watch in the visual as it hits its peak around Week 18.

Why it matters: Public health officials try to capture this data when developing the next year's vaccines. And, of course, they want to find better ways to prevent severe flu seasons. There's a "Strategic Plan" to develop a universal vaccine to protect against a wider range of influenza viruses, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells Axios.