back to article Facebook ran $100k of deliberately divisive Russian ads ahead of 2016 US election

Facebook has 'fessed up to taking “approximately $100,000 in ad spending” from 470 fake accounts connected to Russia and which published spots “amplifying divisive social and political messages”. The your-life-rendered-as-ads company says it found the ad spend as it continued to probe whether it had been used as part of …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just when you thought...

    that the cesspit that is Facebook couldn't get any smellier... Sheesh

    The ruskies obviously didn't pay them enough moolah to keep this quiet.

    "what do you mean you don't accept Bitcoin????"

    1. dan1980

      Re: Just when you thought...

      The real problem, for me, is Facebook's previous blanket denials that such a thing could ever have taken place.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Just when you thought...

        Am I missing something?

        Russia paid for ad's that highlighted current issues that America is facing in order to create debating points. Why is this actually a problem?

        To suggest this is 'interference' is to suggest that reality is a hindrance to the voting process. Whilst I'm sure there will be those who think this is true, I'm not very comfortable with that.

        What exactly are they intending to do if they deem this 'interference'. Another incoming ban on another aspect of free speech?

        1. h4rm0ny
          Flame

          Re: Just when you thought...

          I'd very much like to see examples of these "ads". It's very easy to slant things when you get to describe something and don't have to actually provide examples. Rant warning, I'm afraid. But I have strong issues with attempts to limit foreign groups from having a voice in our countries by denouncing it all as "propaganda" and shutting it down. Sometimes a foreign point of view is good for us. Example: You ask anyone in the USA why they're sanctioning Russia and you'll hear something about Russian interference in elections. Despite this being unproven and even if the case, it's actually only about providing information to the US electorate about what their candidates actually said and thought behind their backs. Ask people in most of the non-English speaking world why the sanctions exist and you'll hear comments about blocking the Nordstream 2 pipeline project with Germany(1) and / or trying to overthrow Assad.

          Russia does make efforts to reach people in the West with its own viewpoints. E.g. Russia Today pushes a less Western viewpoint. And I don't begrudge them trying to provide me information. If you want to know what someone else is doing wrong, read your own news. If you want to know what your side are doing wrong - read theirs. Because sure as Hell you wont hear it from your own masters. What I begrudge are attempts by ANY party to limit MY access to information. And there are very active attempts to do that in the West. Examples such as this, examples such as the EU making an agreement to limit and discredit Russian news sources in the West ("East Stratcom" project). The victim of efforts to block foreign viewpoints isn't them, it's we the public who no longer get alternative points of view.

          It's blackly hilarious given the amount the USA has spent on political subversion on foreign countries itself (Ukraine, Syria, Georgia...). Also, given that I'd wager a hundred times more has been spent on Facebook campaigns to direct people's thoughts by their own governments. Spending on Social Media accounted for over half of US presidential campaigning budget of $1bn. The Clinton campaign had a million dollar project to respond to any pro-Trump comments online with attacks on Trump.

          My point, anyway, is not that Russia doesn't try to push its agenda online. My point is that (a) I don't want our own governments deciding other points of view are "divisive" and trying to block me from them, (b) that it is hypocritical in the extreme given that our own governments and parties not only do this both at home and in their countries but do it with a hundred times the budget and with more extreme tactics; and (c) this particular attack is seriously weak sauce. I mean "divisive"? Isn't that political discussion?

          Rant over. As you can see, I am really bothered by this stuff. In the USA they are rapidly reaching the point where it can be factually described as Government by the Media. And in the UK we aren't that far behind.

          (1) The USA has a shale gas bonanza and wants to sell their surplus to Europe. The Nordstream 2 pipeline is a joint project with Germany and would allow Russia to sell its traditionally drilled oil more competitively to us. Anyone in the business world sees a clear connection between the sanctions which block the deal with Germany and US interests. Many Germans are pretty pissed about the USA telling them who they can trade with, in fact.

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

            Re: Just when you thought...

            If you want to know what someone else is doing wrong, read your own news. If you want to know what your side are doing wrong - read theirs.

            Precisely. I'd give you a 100 up-votes if I could. Does saying that constitute interference in the El Reg voting process?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Just when you thought...

            @h4rm0ny: a simple up-vote seems insufficient for such a well put comment.

            "If you want to know what someone else is doing wrong, read your own news. If you want to know what your side are doing wrong - read theirs."

            That's an aphorism well worth remembering.

            1. Rich 11 Silver badge

              Re: Just when you thought...

              If you want to know what your side are doing wrong - read theirs.

              Yeah, I can just see the Three Brexiteers perusing Der Spiegel every day...

          3. Richard Wharram

            Re: Just when you thought...

            There are sanctions with Russia because it invaded Georgia and Ukraine.

            There are also 'sanctions' from the Magnitsky Act that are not really sanctions on Russia at all but on certain of its oligarchs with the aim of stopping them from enjoying the fruits of wealth corruptly siphoned from ordinary Russians. Putin's underbosses very much prefer to spend their ill-gotten gains in the west by moving them to western bank accounts. The Act aims to prevent that which is very much in the interests of ordinary Russians whose welfare is adversely affected by living in a corrupt and brutal dictatorship.

            RT is not a less western viewpoint. It is propaganda. Modern day Pravda.

            1. An nonymous Cowerd

              Re: Just when you thought...

              but Richard, the OSCE monitors who witnessed the start of the Georgian situation, and wrote their accurate report - suddenly had to retire, one to Wales... propaganda that you complain about is directly included in your first sentence, perhaps unintentionally.

              Some 'accepted truths' are simply wrong facts deliberately repeated over and over. I agree that Russia is very corrupt, but the more closely that you sieve the news, you more that you can begin to worry slightly that our "western values" are being slowly replaced with frankly "soviet values" of censorship & propaganda, sadly with more up-to-date technology.

              I'll go and watch strickly or GBBO immediately and stick pins in my Putin doll, too.

            2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

              Re: Just when you thought...

              "RT is not a less western viewpoint. It is propaganda. Modern day Pravda"

              Which means you can rely on them to point out the stuff that our media buries. It doesn't mean you have to buy the line their selling, but this is about awareness, not just consuming propaganda from the other side for a change.

              The more stories I pick up on (not just from RT) that I look into (eye witness reports as close to the source as possible if I can) the more you realise just how much our own side is at it too, they're just better at it.

              I don't like being lied to, it makes me think they have something to hide (tm).

              1. Richard Wharram

                Re: Just when you thought...

                'our side' implies a false equivalence. CNN, NBC etc are not directly state-controlled by an overt state propaganda arm.

                Pointing out that no news outlet is perfect does not contradict the fact that RT and Sputnik are propaganda channels and CNN and NBC are not. Both can be true.

                1. h4rm0ny
                  Paris Hilton

                  Re: Just when you thought...

                  >>Pointing out that no news outlet is perfect does not contradict the fact that RT and Sputnik are propaganda channels and CNN and NBC are not. Both can be true.

                  The critical thing, is that we have access to both so that we can make judgements for ourselves. This is a story about Facebook removing posts for being "divisive". Honestly, I just read that as "challenging our groupthink."

                  >>'our side' implies a false equivalence. CNN, NBC etc are not directly state-controlled by an overt state propaganda arm.

                  Well, neither is Russia Today. It's funded by a State. But then so are the BBC and so is Al Jazeera. The question isn't "directly state-controlled" but just "state controlled". Would you pretend that CNN or Fox News don't have a political agenda? More to the point, would you be happy for Facebook to decide that you shouldn't listen to them and de-publicise them on your behalf?

                2. Alistair Silver badge
                  Windows

                  Re: Just when you thought...

                  @ Richard:

                  Just because a media entity is not directly owned or managed by the government does not mean that it is automatically impartial. Money, the owners, have an opinion. Money, the owners, can dictate the opinion of the media entities they own. It may not be *government* propaganda, but it is still, in context, propaganda.

            3. h4rm0ny

              Re: Just when you thought...

              >>There are sanctions with Russia because it invaded Georgia and Ukraine.

              The US sanctions in the news recently - those voted through the Senate in June, 2017 - are not in response to either the Russian annexation of the Crimea (February 2014) nor in response to the conflict in South Ossetia (Georgia) in 1994. They are because of conflicting business interests.

              https://www.ft.com/content/27e28a44-51b0-11e7-a1f2-db19572361bb

              One category of news source that is usually more reliable than those 'for the masses' are the financial news. Because investors don't give a damn about being told who are good guys and who are bad guys - they just want to know what the reality on the ground is and any company that misleads them quickly finds itself without customers. Hence the Bloombergs, Stratfors, Financial Times are where you go if you don't want narratives and just want facts. Albeit with a somewhat amoral slant. ;)

              There are older sanctions but plainly the current ones are not for the reasons you gave. This is why it is important to be able to get as many points of view as possible. To illustrate with your own examples. The Crimea has historically been Russian and is largely ethnically Russian and Russian speaking unlike some other parts of the Ukraine; its population voted overwhelmingly in referendum that they wanted to be governed by Russia and - critically - regards the US-backed overthrow of the Ukraine's President Yushchenko as illegitimate. Whilst if you ask in the Western parts of the Ukraine you'll get the opposite opinion. Note, fraud was never proven in the election of Yuschenko. However we do know for a fact that the USA Congress voted through over a billion in supporting opposition in the Ukraine. A minor and specific example, Pora members were flown to the USA for training in subversion and destabilization tactics. From the non-Western point of view, and with some good reason, Ukraine is a case of a legitimate government being overthrown by Western-funded and trained opposition. None of this is delusional conspiracy theory. Obama has spoken openly about how the USA facilitated the installation of a replacement president in the Ukraine.

              Whilst we could debate back and forth on who is right, I think it's fair to point out that on an article where Russia is alleged to have paid for non-candidate supporting ads that are "divisive" whatever that means, we're now talking about proven US funding for opposition parties in foreign countries and the providing of training in organising and carrying out civil unrest for citizens in that country. To condemn Russia for ads in the face of Western interference like this, is insanity. Most of the people in the Crimea regard the Russian annexation as protecting them. Some of those that attacked them were literal Nazis with variant Swastikas on their flags. (Check out the "Azov Regiment" which became part of the new Ukranian National Guard").

              The point is, foreign points of view like the above are important to be heard. Else everybody will think, as you do, things like "the sanctions against Russia are because it invaded Ukraine" and not about business interests. It is not whether your view of Russians actions are right or mine is, but that people be allowed to put their case. And this article is about preventing people from doing so. About dismissing and hiding attempts to put a foreign point of view because it is foreign. It is a plea that we stop our governments from deciding what narratives we are allowed to hear, that I am making.

              There will always be little corners of the Internet where people can speak any point of view they like, but if the eyeballs of the world are in the hands of a handful of giant corporations such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, then it's important that they not be allowed to restrict it to their favoured friends. Much less be applauded for it.

              1. Richard Wharram

                Re: Just when you thought...

                Your analysis of the Euromaidan revolution could have been made by Sergei Lavrov himself. The protests against Yanukovych started before the Nazi-leaning party joined and was not led by them. It was much more led by Vitaly Klitschko, the boxer. Ukrainians from across the political spectrum (albeit less so in Eastern Ukraine) protested against having their country moved back into a new USSR-Lite.

                http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2014/02/20/russia_says_the_ukrainian_protesters_are_fascists_and_nazis_are_they.html

                Etc...

                And the Crimean referendum should be held in the same regard as Russia's elections. A parody of democracy.

                1. h4rm0ny

                  Re: Just when you thought...

                  >>Your analysis of the Euromaidan revolution could have been made by Sergei Lavrov himself

                  Well as he is a professional diplomat with a couple of decades of experience and is fluent in four languages, I'll take that as a complement. I presume you don't mean it as a criticism because he's Russian, after all! :)

                  >>The protests against Yanukovych started before the Nazi-leaning party joined and was not led by them

                  You say "Nazi-leaning party". I say "has a swastika on their flag". But regardless, I never said they were the sole force involved, merely that the USA funded them and that they attacked Crimean people. Perhaps raising this is "divisive" but remember my point in all of this discussion, is that it is important to have access to multiple views on events. Had Facebook their way, there would be no awareness that the USA had funded Nazis who beat up people who wanted to be governed by Russia. That is the problem.

                  >>"It was much more led by Vitaly Klitschko, the boxer."

                  Do you feel that this boxer was a greater contributor to the overthrow of the Ukranian president by pro-Western groups than, for example, the billion or so the USA has spent on supporting opposition groups in the Ukraine? Or the sanctions it has imposed on Russia and Ukrainians who were pro-Russian? (Yes, they sanction Ukranians too if they are pro-Russian). This Klitschko is a big man. But I find the notion that he, moreso than political interference and economic pressures, led to the overthrow of the Ukranian government a silly one.

                  >>Ukrainians from across the political spectrum (albeit less so in Eastern Ukraine) protested against having their country moved back into a new USSR-Lite.

                  "Albeit less so in Eastern Ukraine" hides a multitude of sins. Most in the Eastern Ukraine consider the overthrow of their government to be an illegal revolution and in The Crimea which I explicitly said was the area I was referring to and which is the area that has been annexed by Russia and which is the area that historically was part of Russia until it was parcelled off after WWII, the people overwhelmingly wanted to be governed by Russia.

                  How many people in America, do you think, know all this? That the people of Crimea regarded Russia as their protectors against those who assaulted them and overthrew the elected government? Versus those who think Russia just invaded a country against its will? That is the point - again. Not that you are wrong or I am wrong. Plainly we wont agree. But that people should not have only one narrative presented to them, but have the freedom to see things from foreign points of view.

                  >>And the Crimean referendum should be held in the same regard as Russia's elections. A parody of democracy.

                  Why? Nobody has credibly argued that it's not valid. Hell, I'm sure even you concede that the people in the Crimea overwhelmingly didn't want to be governed from Kiev but preferred Russia. Some parties did their best to scupper the referendum. For example, the Crimean Parliament had been trying to get a referendum allowed for years and the Swiss observer was forbidden from attending despite being invited because "Crimea wasn't a proper country". However, even if you doubt the referendum, later polls and studies (e.g. by Gallup) showed the people of the Crimea considered the referendum accurate and confirmed they wanted to be governed not from Kiev but by Russia. If you are trying to pretend this is not the case, then say so outright, but you seem honest enough, I hope, that you will concede the people of The Crimea did choose re-unification by Russia. Why should they be denied the right to self-determination?

                  And to bring this back on topic, why should anyone be denied the right to state their case? I object to a corporation like Facebook having the right to suppress foreign viewpoints because they are foreign or "divisive" - which is what has happened here. That's a universal principle that supersedes our debate here about Russia, the Ukraine or US involvement. The important thing is that the debate can happen and is equal.

                  1. Richard Wharram

                    Re: Just when you thought...

                    "I presume you don't mean it as a criticism because he's Russian, after all! :)"

                    This is the standard diversion tactic you are using again and again. Conflating dislike of Putin, cronies and his corrupt regime with anti-Russian sentiment. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's like calling someone who was critical of Mao anti-Chinese, anti-Han or sino-phobic. The interests of a dictator and those of his subjects rarely coincide. There are plenty of Russians and ex-soviets I admire. Unfortunately many of them are now dead for various reasons.

                    In the spirit of 'free speech' and 'assessing all the viewpoints' why not read one or both of these:

                    Gary Kasparov: Winter is Coming

                    Bill Browder: Red Notice

                    (As typed in the brief interlude between work and getting kids ready for bed so sorry I don't have time for a point by point)

                    1. This post has been deleted by its author

                      1. Richard Wharram

                        Re: Just when you thought...

                        "Or the sanctions it has imposed on Russia and Ukrainians who were pro-Russian?"

                        Just as a quick example. pro-Russian being used instead of Putin's cronies/gangsters. Conflating the two.

                        1. h4rm0ny
                          Unhappy

                          Re: Just when you thought...

                          >>Just as a quick example. pro-Russian being used instead of Putin's cronies/gangsters. Conflating the two.

                          Example of what? My using "diversionary tactics"? You're progressing from reasonable debate into repeated ad hominem now. My statement was correct. And you haven't actually changed it. You've just substituted your preferred phrasing of "cronies/gangsters" in place of "pro-Russian".

                          If you're Ukranian but you publically or materially support Russia, the USA will sanction you if you're big enough to get their attention. As I said, many Ukranians want re-unification with Russia. Especially in the Crimea. Is someone in the Crimea a "crony/gangster" because they are pro-Russian? The people there voted overwhelmingly for re-unification (and were attacked for it by pro-Western thugs on multiple occasions). All of this is easily verified.

                          My statement was accurate and it's not an example of my "again and again" using diversionary tactics just because I didn't choose to phrase it in a prejudicial and pejorative way that you choose. Attacking me as not arguing in good faith because I didn't is a low blow.

                          1. Richard Wharram

                            Re: Just when you thought...

                            Missing the point. Putin cronies are punished by the Magnitsky Act and such because they are criminals, complicit in a murderous regime, trying to use laundered money to live the high life in the west not because they are pro-Russian therefore your conflating the two is disingenuous and is a standard propaganda tactic used by RT, Sputnik and the like.

                            I may also point out the usage of whataboutism. Another standard Kremlin-line.

                            I'm surprised I haven't seen the "Russian critics are just trying to bring about World War 3 to enrich the military-industrial-complex" line yet.

                            1. h4rm0ny

                              Re: Just when you thought...

                              >>Missing the point. Putin cronies are punished by the Magnitsky Act and such because they are criminals, complicit in a murderous regime, trying to use laundered money to live the high life in the west not because they are pro-Russian therefore your conflating the two is disingenuous and is a standard propaganda tactic used by RT, Sputnik and the like. I may also point out the usage of whataboutism. Another standard Kremlin-line.

                              Wonderful. Except I very clearly stated I was talking about the recent sanctions in response to the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline. Where the USA imposed sanctions in order to boost US business. You then started talking about sanctions in response to Russian annexation of the Crimea and so whilst stating clearly that you were switching topics, I did indulge this and pointed out that a Ukranian who is pro-Russian is also subject to the sanctions. Which 90% of people in The Crimea are. You then accused me of using "again and again" diversionary tactics when I objected to you making ad hominems against me. So I asked you for examples and all you came up with was that I had written "pro-Russian" instead of "cronies/gangsters". THAT is a "diversionary tactic"? And now you are doubling-down on trying to prove that by referencing even older sanctions from 2012 (the Magnitsky Act).

                              Does any of this chain of logic not bother you? I know I would be questioning if I had become partisan if I made it. You attack me rather than my argument. When called on it you claim my not using the term gangsters and cronies is a "diversionary tactic". Seriously? So I ask you if people in the Crimea are "gangsters and cronies" because they are pro-Russian and you start citing American sanctions that predate the Crimea annexation. Seemingly claiming that Crimean people are because Americans passed a bill against some different people two years before the annexation even took place; but this is valid because all sanctions are the same sanctions and if the USA calls the target of some sanctions gangsters then later targets of different sanctions must be so. And whales are mammals so all mammals are whales and mammals are hairy so whales are hairy. (Shave the whales?) That seems to be a rough approximation of your logic. All to try and support some ill-thought out ad hominems you don't want to back down on. :/

                              I think this has taken us way off-topic. However, it has afforded me a great opportunity to illustrate my point that people should not allow others to cut them off from foreign viewpoints. A point that you chose to reply to and in doing so, showed exactly why it is critical foreigners be allowed to present their case. Otherwise we'd be left with a bald and inaccurate belief that the recent sanctions against Russia are not to do with gas pipelines but to do with conflict in Georgia years before.

                              1. Richard Wharram

                                Re: Just when you thought...

                                Nordstrom 2 = Gazprom = Russian State = Criminal

                                I'm not going point to point as I stated. I don't have time or inclination so yes sometimes I will have moved between different points. Really not a big deal.

                                1. h4rm0ny

                                  Re: Just when you thought...

                                  >>Nordstrom 2 = Gazprom = Russian State = Criminal

                                  Nordstream 2 is a joint project between Germany and Russia. And many German ministers and citizens are pretty pissed off at the USA blocking it for the sake of their own sales to Europe. Does this make the German State criminals as well? And what standard are we applying here? I could provide a long list of unethical behaviour by the US government. And by the UK. I can't think of a nation state that hasn't. And the USA has started wars for the sake of oil. So I repeat my point - it's vital that we resist efforts to present only favoured narratives to us by our governments. People who use logic such as "Russian involvement = Criminal" must not be allowed to control exposure or else people can't make up their own minds.

                                  >>I'm not going point to point as I stated. I don't have time or inclination so yes sometimes I will have moved between different points. Really not a big deal.

                                  Well actually what you have been doing is jumping between three different sets of sanctions and conflating them. One set (the ones we were initially talking about) happening two years after the annexation of the Ukraine and even longer after the South Ossetia conflict yet you implied they were in response to these things rather than Russia selling gas to Europe. And another set which were years before these events. You attempted to say that any pro-Russian Ukranians were "gangsters/cronies" by citing different US sanctions two years before the annexation took place against different people.

                                  I don't know whether this is deliberate or if I'm arguing with a "Google Debater" (i.e. one who just types terms into Google as needed and selects anything that suits their position), but if 'moving between different points' means 'logical errors', then yes, it does matter.

                                  1. Richard Wharram

                                    Re: Just when you thought...

                                    Sanctions are not only ever about the most recent cause or only ever about 1 cause. They are more often based on a pattern of behaviour over years and whether any previous sanctions have been seen as successful or if they need to be reinforced with further sanctions. Maybe once in a while the MSM might be a useful source?

                                    http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/25/europe/russia-sanctions-explainer/index.html

                                    (Oh, and accusing you of employing a misleading argument is not an ad hominem)

                                    1. h4rm0ny

                                      Re: Just when you thought...

                                      >>(Oh, and accusing you of employing a misleading argument is not an ad hominem)

                                      No, pointing out a misleading argument is not an ad hominem. Making the accusation in lieu of actually addressing my points is. You said I was using diversionary tactics again and again. When called on for examples you came up with my using the term "pro-Russian" instead of "Putin's cronies and gangsters". Wow! Other ad hominems are the repeated insinuations that I don't know what I'm talking about (twice now you've presumed to know what I do and don't read and told me I need to broaden my awareness), and accusations of dishonesty due to bias. Yes, all ad hominems. I.e. trying to discredit me whilst self-admittedly ignoring my actual points.

                                      Sanctions are not only ever about the most recent cause or only ever about 1 cause

                                      A bland truism doesn't make a specific argument of yours right. The recent sanctions in the news - which are explicitly the ones I was talking about to begin with - are for purposes of reducing Russia's competitiveness with the USA. You're not merely arguing with me here, this is the position espoused by Financial Times, The Economist, Angela Merkel, the German Minister for Trade, Stratfor. To pick English language sources alone. So it is a little hypocritical for you to respond with general statements of how causes are complex when this began by you trying to contradict me by saying that the cause of sanctions were conflicts with Georgia and Ukraine. It is accepted opinion that the recent US sanctions have the purpose of blocking the German and Russian partnership.

                                      Nord Stream 2: a test of German power (FT)

                                      Nord Stream 2 pipeline targeted in US sanctions broadside (FT)

                                      Germany's Russian gas pipeline smells funny to America (The Economist)

                                      I expect in the face of this overwhelming evidence some turn about, along the lines of pretending you weren't trying to cast the latest sanctions as solely about South Ossetia and the Ukraine. But it's clear that's what you were going for, rather than concede the USA has imposed sanctions on Russia because Russia is competing with US shale gas.

                                      1. Richard Wharram

                                        Re: Just when you thought...

                                        The articles you just posted don't even take the position that the NS2 sanction is about increasing US shale gas export. The rightly say that some in Germany are a bit pissed off and think the US is interfering where it shouldn't but most of the EU wants to diversify gas supply away from Russia as it has used its position to hold states to ransom in the past.

                                        There's clear statements in your articles that many EU nations disagree with Germany (which as pointed out by the FT would become an energy powerhouse itself to the detriment of Ukraine from NS2 so is far from impartial here) and would prefer new pipelines from other European/Asian nations. Not that they would all wish to import US shale gas.

                                        The articles do not support your position that the sanctions affecting NS2 are primarily about helping shale gas exports. Only that some people (mainly Germans already involved in the project) suspect this may be part of the reasoning. It may even BE a PART of the reasoning. There's a lot of pork-barrelling in anything that goes through congress. However it is not the stated reason or the primary reason. Gazprom and Rosneft are targets of sanctions because they are not normal oil companies. They are part of the Russian state's (which is not separated from the interests of any particular group as it would be in a normal democracy) criminal enterprise and personally enrich its dictator and oligarchs and pay for its ability to repress its people, wage war and interfere in US elections.

                                        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                                          Re: Just when you thought...

                                          "Gazprom and Rosneft are targets of sanctions because they are not normal oil companies. They are part of the Russian state's (which is not separated from the interests of any particular group as it would be in a normal democracy)..."
                                          Actually it's "Big Oil" that are not "normal". Most of the world's oil and oil companies are government owned and controlled. You need to learn that when you're in a hole you should stop digging...

                                          1. Richard Wharram

                                            Re: Just when you thought...

                                            But that is just missing the point. Saudi Aramco is owned by the Saudi state and that is not a normal state either. I grant you both in a second. But the US, for whatever reasons, is not trying to impose sanctions on the House Of Saud. Therefore it is not under sanction.

                                            I truly wish it was under sanction. Unfortunately that is not the point in hand.

                                            Another point to note about US Shale Gas and Oil though is that it has put more pressure on both the Putin and Saud regimes than any sanctions ever have. Just the fact that one of the largest energy consumers in the world could suddenly become independent of Saudi and Russia (not China though because of debt and manufacturing) because of a technology choice has changed the world immeasurably,

                                            /edit: also I am not even remotely in a hole. Honest question. None of you are going to change my mind any more than I am going to change yours. Why do you still bother?

                                            1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                                              Re: Just when you thought...

                                              "But that is just missing the point. Saudi Aramco is owned by the Saudi state and that is not a normal state either. I grant you both in a second.

                                              ....

                                              Honest question. None of you are going to change my mind any more than I am going to change yours. Why do you still bother?"

                                              First, the USA doesn't appear among the top 10 oil producers on the planet. What makes Saudi Aramco, a company that typifies oil production, "abnormal"?

                                              You appear to be attempting to persuade us that you are a jingoist. Frankly, you persuaded us with your first couple of posts. Repeatedly telling us what a jingoist you are isn't going to make the slightest bit of difference. We might very well think additional things of you, but you aren't going to change our minds about your jingoism because you have succeeded.

                                              The relevant question then isn't why do we bother, but why do you?

                                              1. Richard Wharram

                                                Re: Just when you thought...

                                                I didn't say Saudi Aramco is abnormal. Read more carefully.

                                                Neither am I trying to persuade anyone I'm a jingoist. Im not even American. I just won't put up with idiots pretending there's any moral equivalence between Putins mafia state and most western nations.

                                                1. h4rm0ny

                                                  Re: Just when you thought...

                                                  >> I just won't put up with idiots pretending there's any moral equivalence between Putins mafia state and most western nations.

                                                  I come across as an "idiot," do I? As uninformed? Perhaps unable to write or reason well? I think I present a pretty solid case, actually. So I'm just going to file that away with all the other petty attacks. As to morality, do you really want to bring that into the discussion? I'm very much a Realpolitik sort of woman. Nearly everything I've written here has been based firmly in simple political reality. It's you who keeps forming arguments based on morality.

                                                  But if you do want to debate "moral equivalence" (which isn't much interest to me as a subject, but...), I'd suggest you begin by examining your own defences. Off the top of my head there is the support of vicious and women-hating regimes (Saudi Arabia), wars of aggression on false pretext for the sake of oil (Iraq), overthrow of democratically elected leaders and installation of totalitarian rulers (Iran), sponsoring uprisings that turn countries into humanitarian disasters (Libya), pumping billions of dollars into opposition groups in foreign countries (Ukraine), providing material support to terrorist groups (Al Quaeda in Syria)... Honestly, I'm not really interested in trying to argue Good Guys vs. Bad Guys. My whole point is that people should have the information to form their own views. But if that's really a debate you want to start, I'd think it very, very ill-advised.

                                                  1. Richard Wharram

                                                    Re: Just when you thought...

                                                    Actually I thought you'd have picked up on why I chose 'idiot' rather than any other pejorative term. I was referring to the common phrase in international relations and apologia, a 'useful idiot'. In this case it is not the critic of the apologist who holds them in contempt but the party being apologised for who does so.

                                                    It reportedly dates back to Lenin but has applied to defenders of questionable regimes for many years.

                                                    https://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/29/opinion/sierakowski-putins-useful-idiots.html

                                                    A list of 'Whatabouts' of does not change the fact the the US still has Rule Of Law, as Trump finds out to his cost, whereas Russia has rule of Putin regardless of law or constitution.

                                                    Neither does it change the fact that RT and Sputnik are not equivalents or 'the other side' from CNN and NBC. The latter outlets are in no way mission-driven to push the narratives of the President of their country. As Trump has again found to his cost.

                                                    False equivalences. The stock in trade of the Useful Idiot.

                                                    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                                                      Re: Just when you thought...

                                                      "A list of 'Whatabouts' of does not change the fact the the US still has Rule Of Law, as Trump finds out to his cost, whereas Russia has rule of Putin regardless of law or constitution."
                                                      Forget about Putin, you need to take off the blinkers. What "Rule of Law" sends soldiers to kill students on a university campus?

                                                      Killed (and approximate distance from the National Guard):

                                                      Jeffrey Glenn Miller; age 20; 265 ft (81 m) shot through the mouth; killed instantly

                                                      Allison B. Krause; age 19; 343 ft (105 m) fatal left chest wound; died later that day

                                                      William Knox Schroeder; age 19; 382 ft (116 m) fatal chest wound; died almost an hour later in a local hospital while undergoing surgery

                                                      Sandra Lee Scheuer; age 20; 390 ft (120 m) fatal neck wound; died a few minutes later from loss of blood

                                                      Not one of those kids shot dead on May 4, 1970 were political activists, or engaged in any criminal activity. Walking from one class to another is pretty routine behaviour for students world-wide. The day that the USA started executing students while doing so was transforming for many of us.

                                                      Luckily they missed Chrissie Hynde.

                                            2. h4rm0ny

                                              Re: Just when you thought...

                                              >>It may even BE a PART of the reasoning.

                                              Wonderful. In the face of headlines in the FT such as "Nord Stream 2 pipeline targeted in US sanctions broadside" and in other journals, you finally concede that it "MAY" have something to do with it. It only took us four or five posts. This is why it's so important that groups like Facebook or the EU don't get away with restricting access to foreign viewpoints - because then people react as you do when confronted with outside narratives. The human brain is wired for it - to deny or rationalise anything that doesn't fit. And the more pervasive and longer held a narrative is, the more stubborn the effort to resist conflicting information.

                                              Also, your assertion that the links I provided don't support my point isn't really worth picking apart. I provided the links so that people can see for themself and I encourage people to take a look. You shift ground when you say that some agree with the sanctions - of course some do. The point you challenged was what the sanctions were for. And I have backed that up many times over.

                                              >>However it is not the stated reason or the primary reason. Gazprom and Rosneft are targets of sanctions because they are not normal oil companies.

                                              Well no, it's not the "stated reason". And the stated reason for the invasion of Iraq wasn't to get cheaper oil, either. But lets dispense with the fig leaves of international politics. I hope you're not naive enough to confuse PR with reality. The fig leaf is there because baldly saying to the US public: "we're bullying Europeans into not buying oil from Russia" does not fly half so well as "Russia is interfering with our democracy."

                                              Now, onto the less trivially dispensed with. Gazprom and Rosneft are "not normal oil companies". Do you have any familiarity with the world oil industry? Haliburton (US oil company) made over a hundred billion dollars from the Iraq war and were involved in planning it. Heritage Oil was carrying out negotiations with the Benghazi rebels in Libya before the civil war in Libya even started. Enron engages in financial irregularities that would shame a Cartel money launderer. Nigeria has begged the USA to help it prosecute Halliburton executives accused of crimes in Nigeria but the US government protects them. Again, this is the problem with selective narratives. They let you see the faults of others, but blind one to one's own.

                                              Oh, and before we move on - Saudi Arabia, of course. ;)

                                              They're not targets of sanctions because they are "criminal enterprises". The recent sanctions as demonstrated over and over, are because Germany would like to buy oil from them and this competes with the USA's Shale bonanza.

                                              >>/edit: also I am not even remotely in a hole. Honest question. None of you are going to change my mind any more than I am going to change yours. Why do you still bother?

                                              Well I'm open to new information, but most of what you've posted has been assertions such as "gas pipeline = criminals" so obviously that's not going to change anyone's mind. I support my position with articles in the FT, the Economist and others. You make bald statements like "That's not the purpose of sanctions", which simply isn't persuasive.

                                              As to why I bother, there are two reasons. Firstly, every time I correct you on something, that provides information that others might find interesting. You may not be open to changing your mind, but less defensive parties might for a view based on my replies to you. Secondly, as I pointed out elsewhere, the debate with you illustrates my actual point which is that lack of exposure to outside narratives / information causes resistance to any information that conflicts with it. I.e. we shouldn't allow others to control our access to foreign viewpoints.

                                              1. Richard Wharram

                                                Re: Just when you thought...

                                                "This is why it's so important that groups like Facebook or the EU don't get away with restricting access to foreign viewpoints"

                                                That's a highly circuitous way of describing that Russians should be allowed to break US laws.

                                                You haven't provided any concrete evidence that sanctions against Gazprom are purely for the purposes of propping up US shale gas, just hearsay and some pissed-off Germans already involved in NS2. Indeed, given the logistics in trying to get US gas over to Germany with the Atlantic Ocean in the way rather than building a pipeline to a different European or Asian country that would be a pretty weak strategy.

                                                You even mention Enron which was a scandal in 2001, widely publicised in the so-called MSM, and which led to new legislation, Sarbannes-Oxley, to try to prevent it happening again. Would these sorts of things happen to Gazprom or Rosneft? Not a chance. Any irregularities in their business will be with full approval of Putin and certainly won't have RT or Sputnik clamouring for corporate heads to roll.

                                                1. h4rm0ny
                                                  Alert

                                                  Re: Just when you thought...

                                                  >>Actually I thought you'd have picked up on why I chose 'idiot' rather than any other pejorative term

                                                  Actually, I was simply noting that you use pejoratives in the first place. I repeatedly engage with your points and refute them whilst you selectively skip over most of mine and toss in a few arguments by assertion and attacks on credibility such as trying to dismiss counter-information as "a handful of pissed off Germans". I'm sorry that my citing such figures as Angela Merkel, the German trade minister and writers for respected financial journals don't compare with with the assertions of you the Random Poster on the Internet.

                                                  The repeated accusations that I am unaware / an idiot / biased would be a low tactic by themself. But to also make credibility attacks on innumerable respected political commentators and financial experts, is absurd.

                                                  >>A list of 'Whatabouts' of does not change the fact the the US still has Rule Of Law, as Trump finds out to his cost, whereas Russia has rule of Putin regardless of law or constitution.

                                                  If I were trying to prove that Russia had never done anything wrong, then yes, it would be whataboutism. But if someone starts trying to argue moral superiority of their side, then pointing out wrongs done by that side isn't whataboutism. It's an actual response to your position. Obviously.

                                                  Also, your argument was that Gazprom and Rosneft were "abnormal" in their wrong-doing. I provided a list of especially egregious behaviour by non-Russian oil companies. Including involvement in the Iraq war! I don't think your reply about Russian constitution is to the point, therefore. You appear to be attempting to subtly generalise where convenient. Or, let us call it whataboutery.

                                                  >>given the logistics in trying to get US gas over to Germany with the Atlantic Ocean in the way rather than building a pipeline to a different European or Asian country that would be a pretty weak strategy.

                                                  The USA exports oil currently. Mainly to Europe and China. An article by the FT (yes, I'm sorry you regard them as "hearsay" but I'm going to keep using them) predicts that by 2020, US exports will exceed that of most OPEC members. You seem to think the USA exporting to Europe is difficult because of "logistics", but they use things called oil tankers. Mainly out of ports in the Gulf of Mexico. Here is one of them:

                                                  Oil Tanker

                                                  Please note the teeny-tiny trucks next to it.

                                                  I mean you're right - it IS less efficient to ship oil from the USA than it is for Europe to import it by pipeline from Russia. Which is why the USA wants to stop the oil pipeline from being extended and us buying from Russia. But you would have this be coincidence even in the face of it being accepted fact by financial analysts and political commentators in both East and West. Sorry, correction - you have now conceded that it "may" have something to do with it.

                                                  >>That's a highly circuitous way of describing that Russians should be allowed to break US laws.

                                                  Or alternately, I'm just arguing what I say I'm arguing - that people should be allowed to read foreign viewpoints. Which is why I'd like to see these "divisive" ads that Facebook has banned on our behalf.

                                                  I'm going to ask you a question. Does it not bother you that you are now at the level of misrepresenting articles in the FT and The Economist and statements by Angela Merkel as "hearsay". That you are demonstrably engaging in exactly the things you accuse me of ("whataboutery") and making repeated character attacks?

                                                  To dismiss articles in the FT and others as "hearsay" is an absurd level of misrepresentation.

                                                  >>You even mention Enron which was a scandal in 2001, widely publicised in the so-called MSM, and which led to new legislation, Sarbannes-Oxley, to try to prevent it happening again. Would these sorts of things happen to Gazprom or Rosneft

                                                  So firstly, in a list that included actually formenting wars, support of vicious regimes and shielding US criminals from prosecution by foreign nationals, you've chosen to hone in on one favoured example. A tactic you have used repeatedly in the discussion as you selectively ignore many of my points. Secondly, you were trying to make the case that Gazprom and Rosneft were morally "abnormal". Pointing at one of the largest financial scandals in American history and saying we found out about it, doesn't make it not an example of oil companies engaging in massive wrong-doing. Oh, and the reason Enron was caught was because they went bankrupt and lost their investors money. Up until then, they continued with their massive fraud quite merrily. It's not as if the US government sought out and prosecuted criminal behaviour. It was a clean-up job. But my main rebuttal is the first one: That I presented you a list of examples of wrong-doing and you cherry-picked the one you could half-represent as having a silver lining.

                                                  Again, this thread is a sterling example of what happens when the narrative is controlled by one side. Any conflict with that narrative results in determined resistance to the new information. And attempts to fit it into a world view of "us and them" and moral winners and losers. The very fact that you see this in terms of who is a Good Guy and who is a Bad Guy is evidence of being invested in one particular narrative.

                                                  1. Richard Wharram

                                                    Re: Just when you thought...

                                                    I freely admit I don't have the time to pick through every paragraph so I pick an easy one I that takes me 2 minutes. This is not my full-time job sorry. You are attempting to turn this into a war of attrition.

                                                    Rather than go down that road why not go back to the original point of the article. You express that Facebook should not be blocking access to 'foreign viewpoints'. Reportedly one of the adverts in question said:

                                                    "Up to 5.8 million illegals may have voted in the 2008 election. Share if you think this is wrong."

                                                    This is not a foreign viewpoint. It is a straight-up lie. You can't even discuss the original point of the article without putting a ridiculous spin on it.

                                                    I'm not trying to prove that the US is perfect. I don't believe it is.

                                                    Please try reading the two books I recommended earlier. It is possible that you could learn too.

                                                    1. h4rm0ny

                                                      Re: Just when you thought...

                                                      >>I freely admit I don't have the time to pick through every paragraph so I pick an easy one I that takes me 2 minutes.

                                                      The difference between you picking say Enron and saying 'but they were caught', and you picking Haliburton being involved in planning and profiting from the Iraq war, is not one of easiness though. It's one of convenience to your argument. I object to you trying to present your selectivity as some kind of 'best effort'. Ignoring easily checked facts isn't "picking an easy one". In many of these case, I actually provided references for you.

                                                      >>Rather than go down that road why not go back to the original point of the article.

                                                      This too is disingenuous. I have repeatedly drawn our discussion back to my original point. It is you that has built the road we have gone down with your repeated raising of new issues as you shift ground. My original point was that we need access to foreign viewpoints and I provided a fact about US sanctions which most American citizens probably don't know to illustrate that importance. But you chose to challenge that over and over and finally when unable to prove any of your points you say we should get back to the original argument. Well I never left it. This whole grand tour has been you attempting to shoot down that argument by challenging any example of why it matters. And they've all stood up to that so my original position remains supported and, imo, correct.

                                                      >>You express that Facebook should not be blocking access to 'foreign viewpoints'. Reportedly one of the adverts in question said: "Up to 5.8 million illegals may have voted in the 2008 election. Share if you think this is wrong."

                                                      Where did you find the ads that Facebook blocked? I have looked and looked and can't find them.

                                                      As to the specifics, there certainly are non-citizens who vote in the USA. Voter registration and verification in the USA is woeful. But I've no idea what the figures are. I'm not sure anyone does. But it's irrelevant to my point which is that we should be allowed to see counter-points and not have them censored. If the above is one of the ads (again, please tell me where you found the ads because I cannot), then ads should be discriminated against based on their truthfulness, not on where they originate. And in this case, they have been blocked because they are alleged to be from Russia. There are active efforts to discredit and block foreign news sources and viewpoints and this should be of great concern to all of us.

                                                      >>I'm not trying to prove that the US is perfect. I don't believe it is.

                                                      You put words in my mouth. You have not claimed the USA is perfect and I haven't said you did. But what you have done is repeatedly tried to make moral arguments of superiority in a number of matters along partisan lines and applied double standards to do so.

                                                      >>Please try reading the two books I recommended earlier. It is possible that you could learn too.

                                                      Aaaand we're back to the patronising. Also, this from someone who accuses me of "a war of attrition" and pleads lack of time as part of their argument! Maybe I will read the books. But everything I wrote is factually accurate and I've provided citations so the books aren't going to invalidate anything I wrote. They only carry weight in the argument that you are interested in, which is that of who is morally superior our of Russia and the USA. An argument that doesn't matter to those of us who simply want to be able to make our own minds up rather than have Facebook govern what we see.

                    2. h4rm0ny

                      Re: Just when you thought...

                      >>This is the standard diversion tactic you are using again and again. Conflating dislike of Putin, cronies and his corrupt regime with anti-Russian sentiment

                      Oh come on - you made a blatant ad hominem at me, accusing me of bias when my entire argument is that we need to be exposed to alternate points of view. And yes, I'm illustrating that with a Russian perspective on events showing things the average American probably doesn't know. And what do you mean that I'm using diversion "again and again?" Where am I? I've responded to nearly everything you've said. And unlike a spoken conversation, people can easily scroll up and see if that's true. I'm pretty confident I'll come across fine. :)

                      >>In the spirit of 'free speech' and 'assessing all the viewpoints' why not read one or both of these:

                      Maybe I will. I'm interested in as many points of view as possible. That's what I've been arguing for.

                      >>(As typed in the brief interlude between work and getting kids ready for bed so sorry I don't have time for a point by point)

                      Well, make sure you check under the bed for a red, before you do. ;)

                2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

                  @Richard

                  I notice you didn't bother to address the comments around the US interference and overthrowing a foreign government (and the subsequent comparison to placing a few ad's on facebook by Russia).

                  Can't imagine why :)

                  1. Richard Wharram

                    Re: @Richard

                    Because I have a job.

                    1. h4rm0ny
                      Paris Hilton

                      Re: @Richard

                      So there's time for you to throw ad hominems at me, but not to address my points. Priorities? ;)

                      1. Richard Wharram

                        Re: @Richard

                        Because your points are typical Kremlin talking-points. They rely on misrepresentation of stories that are mostly true but to give a misleading impression and will have been answered better elsewhere by the likes of Kasparov or Max Boot or Snopes. I don't need to go into them point by point. Just google beyond your usual sources as you advocate.

                        Back to RT:

                        http://www.thedailybeast.com/how-russia-dominates-your-twitter-feed-to-promote-lies-and-trump-too

                        And now I'm going to watch Ray Donovan with the Mrs and have a beer.

                        1. h4rm0ny

                          Re: @Richard

                          >> I don't need to go into them point by point. Just google beyond your usual sources as you advocate.

                          So basically you don't need to find any flaws in what I wrote (hard to do as it's mostly statements of verifiable fact) because what I should do is "just google" to educate myself and refute myself. Hmmm. Nice little extra dig at the end there, too. How would you know what my "usual sources" are? My common reads are Stratfor - a paid, US-based strategic analyst company, the FT, online links from active forums, RT, Al Jazeera, BBC and, on rare occasions, The Economist. You'll find I've visited most of those during any given week.

                          But please, keep the character attacks coming. I really enjoy being accused of ignorance / partisanship / ignorance. :( Especially the last one - anyone who disagrees with you must clearly be doing so out of lack of your knowledge. Ironic, given I'm the one arguing repeatedly in favour of reading foreign news sources for widening ones views.

            4. Pompous Git Silver badge

              Re: Just when you thought...

              "RT is not a less western viewpoint. It is propaganda. Modern day Pravda."
              So how effective is this propaganda. There used to be a saying in the People's Paradise: "I know it's not true. I read it in Pravda."

              1. h4rm0ny
                Big Brother

                Re: Just when you thought...

                >>So how effective is this propaganda. There used to be a saying in the People's Paradise: "I know it's not true. I read it in Pravda."

                Ah, we've moved beyond simply lying to people in the modern era. The equivalent today is: "I know it's not important. It was covered in the MSM."

                1. Richard Wharram

                  Re: Just when you thought...

                  Or from the sensible side of the fence we have the common truism:

                  "Never believe anything until the Kremlin denies it."

        2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

          Re: Just when you thought...

          Are you missing something - YES ... a little general knowledge. It's a Federal Offense for a foreign entity (individual or organization) to spend money to influence an American Election. The Russians are in hot water and Facebook is going to have to do a lot of ass kissing to get out of this.

        3. Chemical Bob

          Re: Just when you thought...

          "To suggest this is 'interference' is to suggest that reality is a hindrance to the voting process."

          Not at all, it is interference because the government of one country is trying to influence the political process in another country.

          And it;s wrong. No matter who does it.

  2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Only 100K

    That is a good ROI. Pretty cheap too. Especially compared to the amount of money Cambridge Analytica and SCLE have charged for doing exactly the same in other countries elections and referendums.

    Just to be clear - they (and their ilk) will still be allowed as they interfere in elections "in the direction we want". It is only the Russians who will be banned from buying ads in the future. It is the reds under our beds, you see. If it is brown, white or any other color, they should be allowed. In the name of "democracy".

    1. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: Only 100K

      Cambridge Analytica and the like will have picked the Facebook profiles to target, thereby enabling the lower as spend. And the target demographic is a cheap one.

      1. h4rm0ny
        Facepalm

        Re: Only 100K

        If you want to see a real horror show involving Cambridge Analytica, look at the recent elections in Kenya. You had people creating fake videos from the BBC, mocking up counterfeit newspapers with partisan articles favourable to their candidate, social media manipulation on epic scale, election officials abducted and tortured, hints of voting machines being hacked... It was a shitstorm on all sides.

        I don't know who was responsible for what in all that chaos, but Cambridge Analytica netted $6million from the President Kenyatta, reportedly. So nice paycheck for somebody!

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Only 100K

      I thought Cambridge Analytica gave the expertise to the leave campaign for free.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Only 100K

        I thought Cambridge Analytica gave the expertise to the leave campaign for free.

        Not to Trump. Trump paid.

  3. PhilipN Silver badge

    Where's the substance?

    FB trying to present itself as the innocent intermediary by using the "R" word?

    So tenuous and tentative I find it difficult to believe any of it.

    I use a mail app which is good but which happens to be from Russia so all my emails have a sig (if I do not bother to delete it) "sent with Mail.ru". Is that a sufficient connection even though I have never been there?

    A few years ago the slimy monster at the root of every ill besetting humanity was Al Qaeda (or, in England, briefly, Boris Johnson). Now it's the Russians.

    1. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: Where's the substance?

      I don't see the relevance of the Russian connection, other than to evoke memories of McCarthyism.

      Some people bought adverts to affect the election. Either that's ok or it isn't, doesn't really matter who they are unless there are rules about limited spend or nationality.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: Where's the substance?

        It does matter who they are because there are rules about nationality. The Trump campaign sent donation requests to UK citizens, many of whom replied by advising that their campaign management should check the law about receiving donations from foreigners. It hit the (non-Breitbarf) news big time. Likewise the leave campaign should have received a severe spanking for accepting goods from Cambridge Analytica without declaring it.

        Voters are supposed to be able to find out who owns their politicians, and the owners are not supposed to be foreigners. Imagine the outrage if it had been discovered that Mexico had supported Trump to get jobs and cement orders for building the wall.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Where's the substance?

          Likewise the leave campaign should have received a severe spanking for accepting goods from Cambridge Analytica without declaring it.

          Since they deny ever working for the Leave campaign or any organisations connected with it, and are suing the Observer for making the allegations, it might be a bit premature to be dishing out any spanking.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Where's the substance?

            "... and are suing the Observer..."

            Citation needed. As far as I am aware, they have yet to file a lawsuit.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Where's the substance?

        Nationality is the key. It comes under "foreign powers" meddling in internal elections, which is generally illegal.

      3. dan1980

        Re: Where's the substance?

        @Adam 52

        "Some people bought adverts to affect the election. Either that's ok or it isn't, doesn't really matter who they are unless there are rules about limited spend or nationality."

        That's the thing: it is illegal for foreign nations to do this.

        No one (sane) expects that you can haul the Russian government into court for this but that is not the main issue. The main issue is whether US citizens assisted them in these activities - or even whether they knew because that is also a crime.

        If, say, Jared Kushner and his fellows knew of these activities and provided targeting information to assist with the efforts then that is, legally, a big deal.

        1. Adam 52 Silver badge

          Re: Where's the substance?

          See your point there, thanks.

          Still not entirely sure why Mr Putin from Moscow buying ads is more sensitive than Mr Redneck from Texas if both are declared. And acknowledged that they weren't declared this time. Does US law require everyone to declare their influence? If it does Facebook look to be in trouble.

          Wanting to nail Kushner on a technicality I can understand.

          1. rmason Silver badge

            Re: Where's the substance?

            @ Adam 52

            In theory, the sponsored post made by "Angry redneck Man" will be balanced out by opposing posts from more rational people.

            The issue here is a foreign entity *making sure* that select sections of facebook see, every single day, a string of memes, posts, "news articles" about key issues that will only mean they become more and more unhinged, paranoid and out of touch with what is actually happening.

            Sure, you might see Angry Redneck mans posts, or you might see the more rational stuff but this means that if you're the target demographic, you're *absolutely guaranteed* to see the endless stream of purposefully misleading stuff about those terrible people who are coming for your guns/forcing non-christian things to happen or be taught, and the terrible things that fictional immigrants have been upto etc etc.

            They pick specific topics, aim them at specific people and it's a constant stream. Angry redneck man ranting will only been seen by a handful, unless it goes viral.

          2. h4rm0ny

            Re: Where's the substance?

            By default, I take the view of a private citizen in all of this, rather than a constitutional lawyer. For illustrative purposes, suppose Saddam Hussein had taken out ads on Facebook saying Iraq had no WMD and wanted to allow full access to UN weapons inspectors? Both were in fact true, but the official narrative in the USA (where a survey showed more than 50% of Americans thought that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks!) said otherwise. By the laws we're talking about here, that could well be illegal but from my view as a private citizen, it's not only ethical but valuable. Col. Gadhafi was begging for a ceasefire and diplomatic resolution since the moment NATO got involved but we heard little to nothing about that unless you were involved. Again, an example of how foreign views and discussion points are shut down. That's ultimately what we're talking about here. We're not talking about foreign powers actually interfering in elections (although the USA has done that on many an occasion). We're talking about non-candidate backing ads being shut down because they're paid for by foreigners and "divisive".

            I, as a private citizen, don't want my government countering foreign propaganda like this. We're not talking Daesh recruitment videos of people being beheaded. here. I'd be happy if ads contained the names of those who paid for them - that would be useful information. But I'm not happy with the government or in-bed corporations removing things that don't fit their preferred narrative.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Where's the substance?

            "Still not entirely sure why Mr Putin from Moscow buying ads is more sensitive than Mr Redneck from Texas if both are declared."

            Well firstly, Putin has banned foreign NGO's from even working in Russia, never mind 'advertising' there. Secondly, those behind the ads didn't declare who they were and apparently obfuscated their identity on purpose. Thirdly, allegedly these adverts tried to spread false, racist and divisive information.

            I have no problem with free speech when it is conducted within the law.

            If this was Mr/Mrs Redneck with a US IP address, they can be tracked down and charged under the law. Not so easy if Mr/Mrs Redneski is in St. Petersburg.

            1. Rich 11 Silver badge

              Re: Where's the substance?

              Not so easy if Mr/Mrs Redneski is in St. Petersburg.

              So not the St Petersburg in Florida?

              1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                Re: Where's the substance?

                "So not the St Petersburg in Florida?"
                Can the average Merkin tell the difference? Remembering the good people of Bagdad being harassed by Merkins following the invasion of Iraq.

      4. h4rm0ny

        Re: Where's the substance?

        >>Some people bought adverts to affect the election. Either that's ok or it isn't, doesn't really matter who they are unless there are rules about limited spend or nationality.

        Facebook state that none of the ads supported a particular candidate. Only that they were "divisive". If I had to guess - and I do have to guess because Facebook wont actually show us examples - they were simply points of debate / things to do with immigration or international military interference. Things that establishment narratives should be open to challenge on. Even the Russian "hacking" is not only not proven, but isn't hacking. It's about people leaking information to the American Electorate. Yes, the public finding out that the DNC chairperson was secretly helping Clinton over Sanders can "affect" the election. But as a member of the electorate I want information on my candidates. As much as possible. That isn't "hacking" the election. "Hacking" is just a word by the media to generate hype and clicks. It's disingenuous. Similarly, generating discussion about immigration or US involvement in Syria may "affect" the election, but that doesn't mean it's wrong.

        1. strum Silver badge

          Re: Where's the substance?

          >But as a member of the electorate I want information on my candidates

          You mean - like their tax returns?

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Where's the substance?

      I do not see Fartbook claiming to be innocent, but they clearly regret being naive.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Where's the substance?

        "I do not see Fartbook claiming to be innocent, but they clearly regret being naive."

        I bet what they regret the MOST is they THEY didn't think this technique up FIRST...

        (or maybe they did, and this is an attempt at obfuscating everything, blame it all on Russia, etc.)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook

    Heard of.

    Never read.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Facebook

      I'm like that witth Harry Potter

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Facebook

        Not sure what a child's book has to do with a social media platform that has the potential to affect the outcome of democratic elections in North America and Europe.

        I discount the prospect of FB affecting democratic elections in Russia as there is little democratic about the way Putin enables the murder of free press writers and prevents opposition rallies and opponents.

  5. Redstone
    Devil

    We absolutely condemn your political viewpoint...

    ..Oh, you have money? Why didn't you say? Of course we will run your ads. Always liked your political opinions, you know....

    One question - how tenuous does the 'link' have to be to be 'connected with Russia'? Some of those IP packets were routed through a server in Russia = Russian connection?

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    FAIL

    "how we can [..] better detect inauthentic Pages and the ads they may run"

    I note that nowhere in their efforts to they even hint at vetting ads. No, it's all pseudo-AI code just trying to find out if the ad comes from the right place.

    So, next time, the Russians will VPN in to US accounts and start from there. Simple.

    1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

      Re: "how we can [..] better detect inauthentic Pages and the ads they may run"

      @pascal, That is exactly what they did!

  7. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    "on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”

    I'd be interested to see some examples

    I cant imagine how you'd design an ad to make people vote Trump , whilst appearing to innocently sell something

    Did all these ads lead to non existent businesses?

    eg

    "Discount on immigrant deterring rifles at Billy's guns this week!"

    is that the sort of thing?

    1. Not also known as SC

      @Prst V.Jeltz

      Likewise

      "The good news is that the ads didn't suggest US-based Facebook users vote one way or another. The bad is that they seem to have aimed to create a febrile atmosphere in the US and that effort appears to have succeeded: the 2016 presidential election featured plenty of heated debate on immigration, race issues and guns.”

      So the adverts weren't interfering in the actual election, but encouraging discussion? Isn't that what democracy is all about - discussion? Is the bad news that people in the USA actually talked about immigration, race issues and guns and then came to a decision about who they wanted as their president afterwards (or not as the case may be)?

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Megaphone

        a febrile atmosphere in the US

        "The bad is that they seem to have aimed to create a febrile atmosphere in the US and that effort appears to have succeeded"

        a better way to put that, is "creating chaos". But it was like that ALREADY. The Demo-Rats and OBAKA saw to THAT... [and 'Establishment' Republo-Crats as well with their all-too-empty promises].

        OK Russian counterintelligence has been accused of using destabilizing tactics before, and maybe they DID do some of that, but it was just tossing a few extra logs on an already ROARING fire.

        Everyone knows the U.S. electorate is really pissed off at the moment. But only the leftist ideologues (including the lame-stream media) blame Trump or Russia for it. We put Trump in the White House to FIX IT and the *ANGER* was already there, LONG before he announced his candidacy. The reasons for the electorate being pissed off go back to the Tea Party and things like OBAKA"care" and being called a RACIST for just disagreeing, getting socialism jammed up our as... down our throats, along with an artificially stagnant economy, high unemployment [that was statistically reclassified so it didn't look bad], high 'social service' dependency, and a general sense of frustration that NOTHING was being done about it [except to make it WORSE]. AND we were being told to "get used to the NEW NORMAL".

        In other words, it was a "slow boil" ready to erupt into a raging VOLCANO. I can't imagine what would've happened, had Mrs. Clinton won, but it would have been *UGLY*.

        (and now the howler monkeys will call their friends to downvote me en masse, the intarweb equivalent of throwing poo. *kisses* to my fan club!)

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: a febrile atmosphere in the US

          I thought the febrile atmosphere was supposedly caused by "carbon pollution". Febrile = "Of or pertaining to fever; produced by or indicative of fever; feverish."

    2. rmason Silver badge

      @Prst. V.Jeltz

      They aren't necessarily "adverts" as you're imagining them. you can "sponsor" any post in the same manner as the advertisers.

      you pay the same money and get the same choices.

      So you have your army of fake accounts and use them to share misleading news stories and rants about thing that aren't true.

      I write my "they're coming for your guns rant", with an accompanying meme or image and a link to a written for purpose fake new site. (as in actual totally fake sites, not just crap being reported by legit outlets). I can then pay any amount of money to push this post.

      I tell FB what age groups and sex i'm targeting, what interests or "likes" those people should have, which geographical region they should be in etc etc. Exactly the same as a company running an advert. I then pay and facebook push my post into the faces of my requested audience.

      Thus i'd target americans of voting age, who live in certain areas and "like" for example a certain politician/party page *and* the NRA page. Or who are members of anti-vax groups, or "pro life" groups etc.

      Job done. My 10k fake profiles are all pushing similar stories to similar people fueling their particular fire.

      They aren't adverts, they're just posts you pay them to push that are specifically designed to play on the morons fears.

      Once done they will then be pushed to your audience who should then start sharing it organically themselves.

      Think "Britain first" etc posting road signs with Arabic photo shopped on them and claiming they are in bradford.

      It doesn't matter that it's nonsense, it's feeding their target audience exactly what it wants to see, which will naturally cause it to go viral.

      No one with a brain believes it, but they aren't the target audience! The damage is done. you have a million angry racists convinced it's true, sharing it, discussing it, being outraged by it and seeing it as proof they are right. etc etc.

      Now imagine a campaign of this during an election. Targeting those who are hard of thinking, and pushing EXACTLY the right buttons (religion/abortion/gun control/immigration/muslims/etc)

      now please don't read me any poetry!

    3. rmason Silver badge

      Almost none of it is from business pages.

      "Billy's guns" don't run a random "we hate Hillary" campaign (although i'm sure some did, to be fair).

      What happens is 10 000 fake "Billy, owner at Billy's guns" and the like, personal profiles start pushing the stuff, and paying to get traction in their chosen target audience.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing the point

    Please let's not lose sight of the important stuff here. Zuck made a few more dollars.

  9. Chris G Silver badge

    Pot, meet kettle

    What really makes me laugh is how indignant people are about someone trying to influence 'their' elections. Have a look at KQED the Lowdown a history of US meddling in foreign elections. This is a major part of US psyops.

    Of course it is not only the US and Russia that plays these games, the UK, France and Germany do too amongst many others.

  10. SVV Silver badge

    Whar sort of moron.....

    decides their vote on the basis of a few ads on facebook? Ah,the result seems to have answered my own question, but there you go : if you don't know the difference between the parties and what they stand for and don't follow the news and give a little thought every now and again to political matters, instead being lead to believe that politis is some sort of personality contest, then you deserve the appalling rubbish lot who end up making suh a mess of things.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Whar sort of moron.....

      Facebook are saying that the ads weren't overtly supporting any candidate.

      So I'd imagine the campaign (if it exists) is a little more subtle than that. What you want to do is decrease trust in US institutions, such as government and media. Then raise the noise and chaos level, and so hope that lots of people will ignore all those horrible stories about Trump and just assume "all politicians are as bad as each other".

      It's essentially a nihilistic strategy. Sow lots of chaos, hope for the best.

      An ex diplomat who's blog I read (Charles Crawford) was a reasonably high-up bod in the Foreign Office, ambassador to Serbia during and after the break-up of Yugoslavia and also ambasador in Warsaw and at a more junior level in Moscow.

      He quotes from the Joker Batman when talking about Putin. He claims their outlook is "chaos is fair". We may have totally fucked up the governance of our country, so that growth has stopped and the economy is going backwards, our politics and society may be fucked and our military falling behind due to lack of cash. But how dare you think you're better than us? If we can fuck the world up a bit more then that chaos may level the playing field towards us a bit - and even if it makes things worse - who cares. At least they're worse for you, as well as us.

      He describes it as a completely different attitude to foreign relations / politics.

  11. J J Carter Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Figures

    Zuckerberg never made any attempt to hide he was rooting for Hillary/NWO/Soros

    1. Richard Wharram

      Re: Figures

      As an American citizen it's completely within his rights to display an allegiance to either candidate. How is that relevant?

      (ignoring the NWO/Soros gubbins as I don't read InfoWars)

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Figures

      What's wrong with Soros? As opposed to any other mouthy billionaire trying to buy political influence and look important. Why does he get special mention?

      It wouldn't be the J word would it?

      Please don't tell me he's part of the global jewish conspiracy or something. Because that would be really boring.

      I suppose it's no less bollocks than talking about the New World Order. Just a bit more racist.

      1. Richard Wharram

        Re: Figures

        In the Breitbart world these people are 'Globalists' and regularly have their names surrounded by globes in headlines. This is because putting Star of Davids around their name would be just a little bit more obvious. The alt-right, conspiracy-theorists and Russian Propaganda have been dog-whistling Jews like Soros for years now.

      2. h4rm0ny

        Re: Figures

        >>"What's wrong with Soros? As opposed to any other mouthy billionaire trying to buy political influence and look important. Why does he get special mention? It wouldn't be the J word would it?"

        Anti-Semites are drawn to George Soros like flies to shit, unfortunately. I say unfortunately both because any anti-Semitism is bad and because it obscures some of the problems Soros actually causes. Compare him to, for example, the Rothschilds - a wealth Jewish family that on the whole have done a lot of good. Both attract deeply unpleasant anti-Semites but only Soros also draws the ire of non-bigots. I'll give a couple of examples of Soros sticking his wealthy hands in world affairs.

        George Soros directly cost the UK billions when he precipitated Black Wednesday for his own self-enrichment. George Soros has a net worth on record of $24bn. Enough wealth to destabilize nations and certainly enough to influence their behaviour. He shorted the UK pound in 1992 (essentially a bet that the pound would fall) and then, to make that short pay off, caused the very same fall in the pound. The Bank of England desperately tried to shore up our currency but - let me phrase this is very clear terms - Soros outspent us. With the collapsing pound, Soros raked in a fortune.

        In addition to such staggeringly selfish behaviour on such a horrific scale, he frequently dabbles in politics both domestic and international, funding groups that campaign or act according to his political goals. Sometimes subversive ones. For example, much is made of Russia "banning NGOs", but as an example of one of the NGOs banned, you have Soros's "Open Society Institute". A group that spends around $800m per year furthering political goals. With such eye-watering levels of funding of political groups, he's bound to attract a lot of attention in conspiracy theories. Mainly because if you're spending $800m per year to fund your political groups, it ain't conspiracy theory. He funded the "White Helmets" in Syria which is an anti-Assad group. Funded activists in the Ukranianian "Orange Revolution"

        So yes, he gets a lot of hate from anti-Semites but I prefer to ignore their opinions as a general principle. The reason he is such a focus is because he is an active and important participant in many political events.

        1. Richard Wharram

          Re: Figures

          White Helmets are not an anti-Assad group. Not unless you count acknowledging that there is a humanitarian crisis in Syria and attempting to help saves lives as being anti-Assad.

          http://www.snopes.com/syrian-rescue-organization-the-white-helmets-are-terrorists/

  12. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Fake accounts? Say it ain't so!

    How are Farcebook going to identify a piddling few fake accounts amongst the millions of other fake accounts? Especially if those few fake accounts are spending advertising money so there no real incentive to deal with the issue.

    Facebook claims a third more users in the US than people who exist

    1. Richard Wharram

      Re: Fake accounts? Say it ain't so!

      "With Facebook you have the advertising outreach to reach all 7 trillion Venusians. Just enter your credit card details here."

  13. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

    great what's next?

    getting my IT news from El Reg is gonna be called "foreign influence" soon? They can have my BOFH when they pry it from my cold, dead hands!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah yes, the good old "everybody does it so let me go" trick...

    Except that they got caught doing it, are screaming bloody murder to be allowed to lie to everyone's face about doing it. Demanding "proof" and then screaming "Fake News" when it is provided. Plus still denying that they actually did all the hacking. (Hey, I suppose that sorta floats; As long as they used paid proxies, no?)

    Read about what they actually did to Maginitsky, beating somebody (his only crime was providing evidence of official corruption) to death trying to get a retraction about PutinCo's corruption and wicked deeds isn't something even remotely acceptable. Not even for all the barrels of oil / cubic feet of gas / money in the world. (But keep telling yourself that it is, while rationalizing it by screaming evil Americans, HA!)

    And that's not even beginning to get into all the destabilization, bombing / shelling civilians (Ukraine and Syria) when not actually blowing them out of the sky with missiles and lying about it (MH17) AND the stealing of land they've been engaged in. (note: Budapest Memorandum re: UK and USA. NOT their finest hour indeed.)

    Sowing chaos and discord IS the name of the game, if we're too busy fighting ourselves, PutinCo get to do whatever they want and get away with it.

    FFS, this isn't even at the level of pirating a DVD or something. This is Grand Theft Country, and lots people tend to die from games like this. (Not that PutinCo actually CARES or anything like that. #1 is the most important thing. Russian People and reputation? HAHAHAHAHA! Take a look at what's REALLY going in inside the Russian "Federation" (hohoho) right now. PutinCo is quite literally genociding those poor people with "its" policies... "it" because I cannot describe them as being human, nothing human with a conscience could possibly do such inhuman deeds.)

    That anybody seems to think doing business with people who would do things like this is acceptable makes me worry for the future of the world...

    Yeah, yeah, bring on the whataboutism, downvotes, etc. Eeeeeevil West, hypocrite, etc. PutinCo doesn't care about it's own evil, we should (including our own), so lets start by denying those who don't care the funding and influence they need to keep on doing business. Let's start by throwing those who take bribes for treason and rationalize living with this crap behavior out of office and power. (Preferably into jail, where they belong.)

    We should also invest in the tech (the REAL tech, not this enviro-bandaid-make-algore-rich tech) required to make ourselves and anybody else who wants to live free, energy / resource independent, so that we can deny these wannabe strongman (weakling) shithole leaders finances and influence.

    Meandering Rant over, downvotes go!

    1. Richard Wharram

      Re: Ah yes, the good old "everybody does it so let me go" trick...

      Gets an upvote from me :)

      Whilst I'm completely on the side of Obama/Clinton in the question of which side should have won the 2016 election, Obama and Clinton both failed badly in actually dealing with Putin and Medvedev. They basically did nothing until after 2014 when more experienced heads like 2008 candidate John McCain saw the danger then and wanted action ASAP.

  15. GrumpyKiwi

    Can someone, anyone, who comments on here please tell me of anyone they know who's political opinion has been changed by advertising? Really?

    When was the last time you convinced someone to change their POV on the internet? Ever.

    There is a delusion that 'everyone else is a weak minded sheep, easily swayed by the last bright colour they saw with a slogan on it'. Which is amusing in its own way - shared as it is by everyone else.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      "weak minded sheep"
      I see what you were doing there GrumpyKiwi :-)

    2. Richard Wharram

      Influenced by advertising is a slightly misleading premise. They weren't trying to sell a product or a candidate. They were attempting to change mindsets by triggering viral outrage.

      Instead of the advertising industry, think of how the Daily Mail in the UK and Fox News in the US have successfully turned millions of our parents into grumpy old gits who think everything is rubbish about the modern world and associate that with 'progressive' politics. Works pretty well doesn't it.

  16. Richocet

    The solution to fake news and fake accounts is not as hard as claimed

    Since algorithms clearly aren't remotely good enough to spot fake news, scams and fake accounts on Facebook, it is clear that actual people need to be hired to do this.

    Facebook can afford to do this.

    Zuck is probably concerned that the cost of employing people to do this on a long term basis will reduce profitability too much.

    But hiring an army of people to do this will have a rapid impact on those who are currently abusing the weaknesses and loopholes in FB. It won't be as easy to adapt their activities to fool people as it has been to fool algorithms.

    This will make it too hard for most abusers to keep going because they need a broad reach and low cost to achieve their goals. They can't be as confident they will succeed in that environment.

    This will have the effect of driving them to other platforms where policing|moderating is weaker e.g. Twitter. The cost of human oversight for FB then falls, and FB have a lot more examples to feed their AI to create Zuck's dream solution of automated moderation (if that is actually possible).

    Employing lots of people might also be good for FB PR, unless Zuck's zeal to eliminate jobs is too strong!

    If a competitor does it first, the dodgy operators will move their activities to other platforms e.g. Facebook, making their current problems worse.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The solution to fake news and fake accounts is not as hard as claimed

      "This will have the effect of driving them to other platforms where policing|moderating is weaker e.g. Twitter. The cost of human oversight for FB then falls, and FB have a lot more examples to feed their AI to create Zuck's dream solution of automated moderation (if that is actually possible)."

      With all the SJW's stalking there they probably need an army of offence checkers, use a work like 'Pikey' in context and they're all over you like a rash, support radical whatever and you get left to carry on...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So we're worried about...

    ...soft money buying influence in elections, then, are we? Hmm.

  18. Richard Wharram

    "As to the specifics, there certainly are non-citizens who vote in the USA. Voter registration and verification in the USA is woeful. But I've no idea what the figures are. I'm not sure anyone does. But it's irrelevant to my point which is that we should be allowed to see counter-points and not have them censored. If the above is one of the ads (again, please tell me where you found the ads because I cannot), then ads should be discriminated against based on their truthfulness, not on where they originate. And in this case, they have been blocked because they are alleged to be from Russia. There are active efforts to discredit and block foreign news sources and viewpoints and this should be of great concern to all of us."

    I've seen them on accounts on Twitter that I have reasonable trust in. Time will tell if they are correct but they certainly fit the description in the article. Again if you want to see the other side try following Kasparov or Browder. Can't remember if it was them but they are a good starting point.

    Your description of the problem here is again misleading. Facebook is not saying it has a problem with them because they might be from Russia. It is saying they have a problem with them because they violated their policies. Specifically they were paid for by entities that did not exist claiming to be from the US when they were not. Facebook's policy is that you don't lie about who you are. Of course you could just argue that that is yet another 'fig-leaf' but if all statements can be dismissed in this manner then you aren't having a debate. You are just asserting that you are correct.

    The US government is saying they may have a problem if they are from Russia because that would violate US law on foreign campaign spending. Although in the US someone would be able to defend against such a charge should it come to court because the judicial branch is not subservient to the executive as it is in Russia.

    I'm not 'dismissing' the FT. I took the time to read those articles and they didn't support the conclusion you asserted they did.

    Your idea of all viewpoints being valuable only seems to apply one way. That I should read things you post and draw the same conclusion. I've readily admitted the US has done many bad things. What have you ever admitted is wrong with Russia?

    1. Richard Wharram

      Oh for fuck's sake. I though this had vanished and typed another, similar one. This is eating into the time I was planning to spend watching the Richard Donner cut of Superman II with my 9 year old. We've just watched the Theatrical cut and I wanted to go through it frame by frame with him until he is bored rigid :)

      1. h4rm0ny
        Alert

        >>This is eating into the time I was planning to spend watching the Richard Donner cut of Superman II with my 9 year old. We've just watched the Theatrical cut and I wanted to go through it frame by frame with him until he is bored rigid :)

        Then I suggest you re-prioritise your life if arguing with strangers on the Internet is taking precedence over time with your child. You'll enjoy Superman, I imagine. He stands for Truth, Justice and the American Way. Albeit that last one being somewhat at odds with the first.

        By the way, the latest National Defense Authorization Act just passed in the USA and it contains a clause in there that will allow Russian news sources (e.g. Russia Today) to be dropped from US channel providers. So you'll get what you want in closing off one more avenue where Americans can see another point of view.

  19. Richard Wharram

    Original reply got lost in the Forum mists re-typing what I remember...

    "Where did you find the ads that Facebook blocked? I have looked and looked and can't find them.

    As to the specifics, there certainly are non-citizens who vote in the USA. Voter registration and verification in the USA is woeful. But I've no idea what the figures are. I'm not sure anyone does. But it's irrelevant to my point which is that we should be allowed to see counter-points and not have them censored. If the above is one of the ads (again, please tell me where you found the ads because I cannot), then ads should be discriminated against based on their truthfulness, not on where they originate. And in this case, they have been blocked because they are alleged to be from Russia. There are active efforts to discredit and block foreign news sources and viewpoints and this should be of great concern to all of us."

    I saw them on some accounts on Twitter that I have reasonable trust in. There's a chance they may not be correct, time will tell, but they certainly fit the description in the article. Again, I point you at Kasparov and Browder. Great accounts to follow on twitter if you are interested in 'all viewpoints'.

    Again you present a misleading argument. Facebook isn't blocking these accounts because they are Russian or because they present a different viewpoint. It is blocking them for violating its ToS. They pretended to be from the US as persons or entities that did not exist. You have to be who you say you are to advertise, fake accounts aren't allowed. You could dismiss this as a 'fig leaf' but if you can just dismiss everything everyone says you aren't debating. You are just asserting that you are correct.

    The US government may also have a problem with the adverts as US law states that foreign entities can't do campaign advertising in the US. Now maybe these adverts didn't constitute that. And in the US those who placed the ads could defend themselves in a court of law because the judicial branch is not subservient to the executive one in the US, unlike in Russia.

    I didn't dismiss the FT articles. I took the time to read them and concluded that they didn't support the conclusion you drew from them. No dismissal needed. Again, a misrepresentation.

    I've frequently stated that I don't believe the US is perfect and has done many things wrong. It seems to me though that your idea of everyone should be open to 'alternative viewpoints' only runs one way. I am supposed to read things provided by yourself and have a Millhouse moment. When have you ever criticised or accepted criticism of Russia?

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