How was the 2016 election rigged
He was "dead serious about this matter," said Mark Zuckerberg, but the senators in Washington couldn't hear him. As well as, the Facebook boss was on the other side of the country on Wednesday afternoon.
In California he explained the company's quarterly figures and also touched on the tiresome propaganda topic. Instead, he sent his chief lawyer to the important congressional hearings on Russian election propaganda in 2016. Google and Twitter, who were also summoned, did the same. Instead of the omnipresent Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey, now unknown board members took the verbal beating from politics.
When companies in Washington have to explain their misconduct, people like to log and pound. But this time it's about something big, America's democracy and the attempts by Russia to influence it on major US platforms in the 2016 election year - with false reports, misleading advertisements and bots.
Even Dianne Feinstein, as a California Senator, actually weighed in on Silicon Valley, grumbled on Wednesday: "I represent the tech community with pride. But you don't get it. This is the beginning of cyber warfare." And further: "You have built these platforms. Now they are being abused. And you have to do something about it, otherwise we will take care of it."
146 million Americans saw propaganda postings
The question of whether the platforms are capable of self-regulation is one of the most sensitive of this political autumn. The three representatives denied that they were satisfied with their reaction to the 2016 election. And all three companies knew long before the election that there were Russian activities. They apparently did not take effective countermeasures.
Buzzfeed also published a document on Wednesday that shows how Twitter wanted to sell a large package of campaign ad slots to the Kremlin broadcaster RT (formerly "Russia Today") last year. And Facebook had to revise the number of Americans who saw propaganda posted from Russian soil in their news feed - including Instagram, there were 146 million users.
An astonishing development: shortly after the election, Zuckerberg described the idea of relevant influencing via Facebook as a "pretty crazy idea". At the end of September, Facebook published the number 470 - so many "inauthentic accounts and pages" with a Russian background had been found around the election.
It was only this week that it was revealed that in addition to the 3,000 advertisements, 80,000 "conventional" posts came from the troll factory. The fact that these propaganda posts were able to reach more users in the US via ads, shares and likes than citizens ultimately voted shows the power of the network.
During the hearings, the MPs and Senators also presented examples of the postings and advertisements that the troll farm "Internet Research Agency" in Saint Petersburg allegedly used to try to influence the political climate. Some of the posts are purely electoral advertising and propaganda. Often, however, the strategy was more complex: a page with Bible quotes gathered 200,000 Facebook followers, only to suddenly become political before the election and portray Hillary Clinton as Satan ("Click 'Like' if Jesus should win").
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