With the US presidential election coming up, there’s a lot of activity recently to spin potential Russian interference as a nothing-burger: unintentional leaks, serious scientific paper, a piece in the New Yorker.

It is worth reminding everyone that Russian Interference was real but it was mostly not done through advertising. $100,000 in ads on Facebook can be a powerful tool but it can’t buy you an American election, especially when the candidates themselves are putting up several orders of magnitude more money on the same platform (not to mention other platforms).

Instead, the Russians worked to exploit existing divisions in the American public for example by hosting Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter protest events in the same city on the same day. The people who shows up to those events were real even if the event coordinator was not. Likewise the groups of Americans being fed partisan content was real even if those feeding them were not.

Facebook executive: we got Trump elected, and we shouldn’t stop him in 2020 – Colin Lecher, The Verge

How social network sites and other online intermediaries increase exposure to news – Michael scharkow at al., PNA

The point of all this, of course, was to sway the election in Trump’s favor, and, given the election’s narrow margins, it’s highly possible that it worked. (The Internet Research Agency, a troll farm associated with Putin, purchased thirty-five hundred Facebook ads between 2015 and 2017; Parscale and his team bought millions.)

The Man Behind Trump’s Facebook Juggernaut – Andrew Marantz, New-Yorker

This all looks suspicious and surprisingly well-timed. Just be careful.

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