Burr downplays Russian Facebook ad targeting of Michigan, Wisconsin (Politico)

Burr downplays Russian Facebook ad targeting of Michigan, Wisconsin


Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (D-N.C.) on Wednesday sought to downplay reports that Russian-linked actors targeted Facebook ads at two key battleground states in the 2016 election.

Quoting from a news story that Russian-linked Facebook ads were aimed at Michigan and Wisconsin, with some of the ads targeting specific demographic groups, Burr said the situation wasn’t that simple.

"The narrative here is that ads linked to Russia were targeted at pivotal states and directly influenced the election’s outcome," he said at the start of a hearing on Russian use of social media to interfere with the election. "What you haven’t heard is that almost five times more ads were targeted at the state of Maryland than of Wisconsin."

Burr noted that Maryland voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton, and added that Washington D.C. was also targeted by a higher number of ads than Pennsylvania. He emphasized that today’s hearing and his panel’s investigation were not intended to "relitigate" the outcome of the election.

But Burr later emphasized the continuing threat of Russian meddling. "We can’t afford to kid ourselves about what happened last year and continues to happen today," he said. "This is about national security … deliberate and multifaceted manipulation of the American people by agents of a hostile foreign power."

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), ranking member of the Intelligence committee, echoed concerns about the ongoing nature of the Russian threat. Russians are using social media to “set us against ourselves and to undermine our democracy,” he said. “They did it during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. They are still doing now.”

Warner called on Facebook, Google and Twitter to "commit more resources" to identify those who exploit their networks for nefarious purposes.

"You have transformed the way we do everything from shopping for groceries to growing our small businesses," Warner said in his opening statement. "But Russia’s actions are further exposing the dark underbelly of the ecosystem you have created."

Warner also criticized the companies for not going far enough in their disclosures to congressional investigators about the extent of Russian meddling on their platforms.

Facebook initially told committee representatives last month that it found 3,000 Facebook ads purchased by the Russia-backed Internet Research Agency. Then Monday, the company revealed the existence of some 80,000 unpaid posts and other "organic content." Those posts were seen by 10 times as many people.

Warner told Twitter that the company "seems to be vastly under-estimating the number of fake accounts and bots pushing disinformation." He asserted that Twitter has only uncovered a small percentage of activity from fake accounts.


via Politico http://politi.co/2lnbIsw

November 1, 2017 at 07:31AM

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