back to article US Congress finally emits all 3,000 Russian 'troll' Facebook ads. Let's take a look at some

US Congress has released more than 3,000 Facebook ads purchased and created by the Internet Research Agency, a pro-Kremlin so-called troll factory. Previously the House Intelligence Committee had only released about 50. Usefully, the panel includes information on who the advert was targeted at, and how much engagement it …

Anonymous Coward

The "fake news" theory accounting for Trump's victory requires us to believe that voters discarded decades of experience of the two national figures leading the race, and have their minds changed in an instant by something they saw on the internet.

Yep, sounds about right.

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Unhappy

The poor English reminds me of the 419 scam.

If you don't notice it (or that's how you write and speak generally) you're probably exactly the target mark(et) for these guys.

Simples.

Americans. You should be disgusted that your system made the only viable choice between Clinton and Trump.

Don't fix the candidates. Fix the system that filters out better ones.

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Meh

Decades of experience

The "fake news" theory accounting for Trump's victory requires us to believe that voters discarded decades of experience of the two national figures leading the race, and have their minds changed in an instant by something they saw on the internet.

Where does the decades of experience come from? Most people don't spend decades assiduously following politics, usually they don't give a shit until election time and then get quickly bored, and many haven't even been alive long enough to accumulate decades of anything.

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Re: The poor English reminds me of the 419 scam.

Yeah. Like that's going to happen.

Do you know how many people have a vested interest in the system which provides a choice of two figureheads, for both US and UK politics?

ALL of them. Every single person who has anything to do with this corrupt process earns their living from it. How are you going to get any change with that kind of investment in the system?

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Re: Decades of experience

....and many haven't even been alive long enough to accumulate decades of anything..

The overwhelming majority of VOTERS have got decades of experience of political promises. I don't think that childern are being considered here...

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Re: The poor English reminds me of the 419 scam.

If you don't notice it (or that's how you write and speak generally) you're probably exactly the target mark(et) for these guys.

That thought occurred to me, too, but whereas spammers are perfectly content with having a minuscule response rate someone who wants to influence a democratic election will not be.

I assume that the trolls paid FB and others only based on clicks (and maybe impressions), and they obviously didn't pay zillions to professional marketeers, so the overall expense was negligible in their grand budget scheme of things. If there is any discernible relation to the election at all then I'd say it looks like an experiment that failed miserably.

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Anonymous Coward

Oooh, shiny!

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Re: Decades of experience

The overwhelming majority of VOTERS have got decades of experience of political promises. I don't think that childern are being considered here...

Maybe, but looking at decades of election results, it appears the decades of experience is in being herded down the same track time and time again.

I'd suggest those who get on the bandwagons with glee every election do so for the 'high' that comes with electric short-circuiting of the brain when normal life falls into the backstage for the promise of radical change.

Council/comittee type elections don't really tap into that cult of the personality theme as readily as a leadership contest though.

It's kind of King-ship rite - It's enough to make you wish for some form of anarcho-cyniclist commune.

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So, the political ads were poorly written, perhaps on purpose, so as to target a particular demographic. That demographic would be closely related too (the same as) the better developed race bating ads. You did notice that Trump pushed racism in Politics to new levels, to me anyway but I only in my early 50s and live in Canada. US politics is certainly interesting to follow in the same way as the, "May you live in interesting times" curse, and we do.

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Re: The poor English reminds me of the 419 scam.

"You should be disgusted that your system made the only viable choice between Clinton and Trump".

Actually, that gets it backwards. Given that Clinton and Trump were the only two candidates, the only viable option was to stay at home.

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Re: Decades of experience

"Most people don't spend decades assiduously following politics, usually they don't give a shit until election time and then get quickly bored, and many haven't even been alive long enough to accumulate decades of anything".

Do you realise that you have just described a nation that is wholly unfit for democracy?

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Re: Decades of experience

Yes, but if they had any capacity to learn from experience, their decades of experience would have taught them that political promises are never fulfilled.

Therefore everything any candidate says should be ignored. The choice can be made randomly - although as all candidates lie continually, the best choice is not to vote at all.

If nobody voted, it would have a considerable effect.

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Re: The poor English reminds me of the 419 scam.

And yet your system is giving you the choice between May and Corbyn. Sigh.

It's not the system. It's the people. You can't fix stupid.

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Re: The poor English reminds me of the 419 scam.

Don't fix the candidates. Fix the system that filters out better ones.Don't fix the candidates. Fix the system that filters out better ones.

On the Democrat side, the system was fixed. Just ask Bernie about how the DNC behaved and how the super-delegates system works. Yet still I can't believe the system nominated someone who, had she been anyone else, would have been behind bars in any non-politicized justice system. I know I'd have been in Leavenworth if I'd mishandled classified materials like that.

Strangely enough, the Republicans actually had the more democratic (little d) nominating system. For the GOP the problem were there were so many similar "mainstream candidates" splitting the votes in a winner-takes-all system that the outlier was the one who survived to win. Trump may well have won because the highly partisan media gave him far more exposure than he deserved, and there's a fair bit of this country that dislikes the media. There's evidence Clinton and the DNC conspired to promote his candidacy, and in the most perverse sense they may well have nominated the only candidate who touched issues that allowed him to peel off states like Ohio and Wisconsin that were more sensitive to trade and immigration issues. Absent that manipulation, Clinton should have beaten Cruz handily, for example.

I'm not sure that making the GOP system less democratic and more like the Democrat's system is the best idea as the GOP establishment is at least as corrupt as the Democrat's. But I would like it if the media were more trusted on political matters and wasn't so partisan that it is dismissed by half the country. That would be the biggest and best improvement you could make in the system at present, but the odds of that happening are minuscule.

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Re: Decades of experience

"Where does [sic] the decades of experience come from?"

The voting age in the U.S. is 18, so only those voters below the age of 28, constituting a minority of the voters, will be lacking decades of experience. Thus it is true to say that the majority of voters will have decades of experience.

"Most people don't spend decades assiduously following politics..."

Whilst most people will not have assiduously followed politics they will have lived through its consequences and formed opinions on the basis of their experiences; this, essentially, is how all people decide how they're going to vote.

"...usually they don't give a shit until election time and then get quickly bored..."

I think there's more to it than just getting bored - I think it's more to do with the realisation that, when the only options are a douche or a turd, it's impossible to make a meaningful choice, and if you think your choice has no real meaning then it's difficult to see any point in it. Doesn't help either, that both the douche and the turd have a mutual interest in preserving the system that ensures you only get a choice between douches and turds.

So no, I don't think the problem is due to a lack of interest or motivation on the part of the voters.

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Re: Decades of experience

I'm fairly sure that even if certain Americans shielded themselves from all politics, they would still be aware over the decades of the two master-bozos presented for their delectation.

Trumpo The Magnificent as a humble TV presenter, and Hillary 'It' Her Turn', before she took the role of Cosmic Butt-Monkey Who Couldn't Even Win Against *Trump*.

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Megaphone

Re: The poor English reminds me of the 419 scam.

there were LOTS of candidates in the Republican primary. Demon-Rats, not so much. Mrs. Clinton cheated, don't forget, according to the e-mails that were disclosed by Wikileaks.

That makes a HUGE difference!

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Re: The poor English reminds me of the 419 scam.

"

whereas spammers are perfectly content with having a minuscule response rate someone who wants to influence a democratic election will not be.

"

Apples and oranges. Spam needs the recipient to not only read the spam, but to perform an action based on that one item just read. Changing a person's view does not involve taking action after reading one item, it is a gradual process involving reading multiple items about different things that lead in the same direction.

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Re: The poor English reminds me of the 419 scam.

@Artchtech,

Staying at home is not an option unless the vote is well and truly rigged. In my case, I had a choice between batshit crazy and criminal. I held my nose and chose the criminal. I fully expect the US to get itself into something that it really cannot get out of.

I told myself after season 2 of Obama that I would vote for the Republitards until the Donald got the nomination.

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FAIL

If nobody voted, it would have a considerable effect.

Not really clear how this "First past the post" system actually works, are you ?

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Re: The poor English reminds me of the 419 scam.

>Don't fix the candidates. Fix the system that filters out better ones.

There were at least 5 candidates for President on the ballot. Who got chosen to represent each party was a matter for that party. Each state party selected their candidate using either a Primary ballot or a caucas -- mostly a Primary election -- and the state's delegation went to national convention with a number of voting delegates based on the state's population.

Its not a perfect system but its better than many. Two obvious problems are money buying influence -- that's difficult to regulate -- and the obsolete Electoral College. We should also start using some kind of Proportional Representation for state, local and primary races because races can get crowded and so good candidates without serious financial backing get lost in the wash.

(Incidentally, you should get a look at the materials mailed to us by the state for the upcoming primary and the ballot cards. Its a major exercise poring through that lot; I'd guess nearly everyone doesn't bother. The ballot papers cover two large optical cards, A3 sized or larger that have selections on both sides. So this democracy thing isn't a matter of trying, it really needs tuning!)

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Anonymous Coward

[John_J] "You did notice that Trump pushed racism in Politics to new levels, to me anyway "

Actually, many noted just the opposite.

Other candidates, like Ms. Clinton and Mr. Sanders, routinely held rallies & events in Black, Hispanic, Haitian, etc. venues, to work the Americans by perceived Race.

Trump, on the other hand, did not do such routine race baiting.

And once the arrest started rolling in, for the anti-Semitism & anti-black crimes, the most significant front page stories turned out to be anti-Trump'ers.

The 2016 elections were some of the most exciting elections in Western history!

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FAIL

Essentially the whole Russian Influence thing is #fakenews.

I wish there was some sort of Truth in Political Ads law whereby the companies that run the ads (facebook, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, etc) are financially liable for garbage ads that appear on their networks (internet, cable, etc).

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It isn't fake news, it is a real problem, although, looking at the analysis so far, it probably didn't have much influence on the outcome.

Regardless of its effect, it is a serious problem and the Internet companies need to be taken to task for it. Traditional media is already held responsible for such advertising, so why should the biggest advertising companies in the world (Google and Facebook) be exempt?

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It isn't fake news, it is a real problem,

It is a drop in the ocean compared to an average "influencing a democracy the way we like it" operation performed by USA and/or NATO. I have observed these from the front row in Eastern Europe and was offered money or equivalent to participate in them at the time as well. It is a drop in the ocean compared to the psyops run by the like SCL/Camrbidge Analytica on contracts from "us" to influence elections and public opinion the way we would like it being influenced.

It is a drop in the ocean compared to an average Russian influencing operation such as them sponsoring the greens on anti-fraking legislation in half of Europe. Successfully too (and totally above board where required by law).

Based on the released data we have:

Hypothesis A: Someone in Russia was bored and was playing experimental runs on influencing public opinion this way. In that case, this is not the real thing. Yet. For that they have the data now and it is yet to come.

Hypothesis B: The goal was not to influence at all, but to cause a headless chicken reaction of jumping into censorship along the Chinese model in the west (thus justifying Russian own censorship efforts). If that was the goal they have succeeded with gusto.

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SCL/Cambridge Analytica and this are symptoms of the same problem.

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Hypothesis C: A & B are both correct.

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The real problem

The real problem, by your own logic, is that voters can apparently be persuaded to change their voting intentions by the shortest and simplest of "messages" seen on a screen. Which implies that they have no political understanding and no principles. Their votes can be controlled by anyone with enough money to pay for TV or Web commercials.

That being so, the US system has worked that way for centuries. It is a plutocracy, not a democracy at all.

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Hypothesis C: The possibility that there could have been influence is embarassing and damaging enough to the USA. Win for Russia !

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Re: The real problem

Of course people's votes can be influenced by reading short articles - so long as they are read sufficiently frequently. It is no different whatsoever to conventional advertising, which most certainly works in influencing people's brand choice - which is basically the same as choosing what party to vote for in an election. People do not actually believe that "Sudso washes whiter" (or whatever), but when presented with several different detergents on a supermarket shelf, that jingle automatically comes to mind as you look at the product, and has a very definite (and provable) influence on the percentage of people who vote for (choose to buy) the product.

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Re: The real problem

Democracy and capitalism have considerably different goals.

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Anonymous Coward

So you are suggesting that FB, Google etc should carefully inquire into the identity and provenance of those placing ads before accepting them ? Or is it that BLM ads should not be accepted ? Should they accept a pro-BLM ad from a Muslim extremist related identity, from a radical black communist, from a radical communist white person, from anyone ?

Methinks you have not thought this one through very far...

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I fail to understand

How were of these ads (except the anti Clinton ads) supposed to make anyone want to vote for Trump?

Somebody care to explain.

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Re: I fail to understand

By supporting an anti-establishment narrative.

May I remind you that Trump tried to present himself initially as anti-establishment and there were plenty of marks duped by that ploy.

Hillary was establishment through and through.

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Re: I fail to understand

I don't think it's the individual ads per se. Looking at this "random" sample and others, they all appear to be from supposedly right-leaning organizations. More of statements supporting the right than Clinton.

The screams of "fake news" maybe should be "fake ads". Hell, I view suspiciously those who scream "fake news" except for one or two outlets and that includes the guy at the top. One has to think through and look at the argument, the information offered (real or fake) and then the source. All sources should be suspect as they all have their agendas.

Old saying applies... "it's hard to find the chocolate in all the crap in a cesspool". It's getting worse but it's what we need to do be informed.

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Re: I fail to understand

A lot of this was just intended to widen the political division. Support the police stuff alongside pro-BLM stuff seen as "anti police" - Trump was making BLM into an issue and trying to paint them as akin to a terrorist organization, after all, so these divisions played right into his hands.

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Re: I fail to understand

There's a 16 year old in our school in the North West UK who honestly believes that Antifa is a viable and direct threat to free speech and democracy in the US - and that Trump is doing a brilliant job facing down that threat - and defeating Isis - and generally being a global superhero that does no wrong. Seeing these kinds of posts online would confirm this kids prejudice. Didn't gun sales increase under Obama because people were told their rights were being threatened?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I fail to understand

If you don't understand why Antifa is a direct threat to free speech then you don't understand the principle of free speech at all. That kid at your school is correct. Antifa uses fascist bully boy tactics to shut down their opposition and deny them the right to speak. It doesn't matter how wrong or hateful their opposition's speeches are, only the police have the right to shut them down and only if what they say breaks the law.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evelyn_Beatrice_Hall

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Re: I fail to understand

I don't believe the purpose of the trolling was necessarily to get Trump elected, but rather to add to the instability of the American political climate here. Although there have always been efforts to this effect; those efforts (or at least their efficacy) seem to have accelerated during the presidencies of GWB and Obama (with the help of social and viral media). This is why you saw things like prods to African American and LBGTQ communities.

From the Russian troll farms' point of view, a Trump victory would be extra special bonus points, if indeed their objective was instability. A Clinton victory, while not as nice, would still be a fertile environment to continue their trolling efforts (especially if the whole Russian thing never hit the national attention). A majority of "red state" people had a healthy mistrust of Clinton as it was (justified or not), and her presidency would not have salved their paranoia.

The point is to build a network of mistrust, apprehension and paranoia within the populace and against the government. It's kind of a bleak time to be an American right now.

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Re: I fail to understand

Er... Trump was HUGELY anti-establishment. The entire establishment tried to have him thrown out - Democrats AND Republicans...

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Re: I fail to understand

No, he just played along with the half of the republican party that likes to see themselves as "anti establishment" because it gives them something to fight with. They aren't anti establishment, they are just for a slightly different establishment.

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Re: I fail to understand

There's a somwhat older and more experienced commentator on The Register who knows this to be true as well....

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Re: I fail to understand

I didn't say I agreed with their methods. My point is that Antifa don't even register in the electoral process in the US. In terms of militancy and the alt-right vs. Antifa/hard left, it was in the UK that an MP was assassinated by the far-right Britain First during the Brexit referendum. Farage declared victory 'without a shot being fired' before Cox had even been buried. THAT is registering yourself as a violent political opposition. Antifa are angry and violent protestors. They're not terrorists in the same way that Trump deliberately validates gun rights and white male right-wing extremism, which is a very real threat to the lives of Americans: A far bigger threat that has cost many more lives than Jihadists or Antifa activists.

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Re: I fail to understand

Er... Trump was HUGELY anti-establishment.

No. He paints himself as anti-establishment but his actions have been indistinguishable from the establishment. For example, on the election trail he promised to drain the swamp, but once he got to the White House he appointed five Wall Street millionaires to his Cabinet.

The majority of what he has done would be expected of any Republican president -- about the only standard action he has yet to achieve is to find a country to invade.

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Re: I fail to understand

Don't worry he is actively working on that one

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Stop

Re: I fail to understand

Not assassinated. Just murdered.

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Re: I fail to understand

The goal was not to get you to vote for Trump, the goal was to stir the pot, encourage class and race division, create a sense of injustice and oppression, and generally disrupt society and trust in our institutions.

I can't help, though, but think that "turnabout is fair play", given all the messing with foreign elections the US has done around the world since the Second World War. The chickens have come home to roost, and it's not much fun.

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Re: I fail to understand

>Antifa uses fascist bully boy tactics

The irony is strong with this one.

You do realise that 'antifa' is alt-rightspeak for ant-fascist? And that the alternative to 'antifa' is 'profa'.

It's not as if there's any mealy-mouthed central ground. Either you're for fascism or against it - and you are clearly for it.

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Re: I fail to understand

If you don't understand why Antifa is a direct threat to free speech then you don't understand the principle of free speech at all.

I side with you in theory, in practice we are talking about a nation here which has a creationist museum*, a significant portion of, if not all world's, flat earthers, and a great number of guns. In other words, in a nation with a great number of heavily armed intellectually challenged you have to understand that our idea of freedom of speech is simply not that suitable. I know, I am playing catcher in the rye, again ...

* one example among many

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