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

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

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

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

    Yep, sounds about right.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      The poor English reminds me of the 419 scam.

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

      Simples.

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

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

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

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

        Yeah. Like that's going to happen.

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

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

      2. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

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

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

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

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

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

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

          "

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

          "

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

      3. Archtech Silver badge

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

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

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

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Megaphone

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

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

          That makes a HUGE difference!

        2. DubyaG

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

          @Artchtech,

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

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

      4. Jtom Bronze badge

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

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

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

      5. nerdbert

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

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

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

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

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

      6. martinusher Silver badge

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

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

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

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

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

    2. Smooth Newt
      Meh

      Decades of experience

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

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

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: Decades of experience

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

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

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: Decades of experience

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

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

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

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

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

        2. Archtech Silver badge

          Re: Decades of experience

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

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

          If nobody voted, it would have a considerable effect.

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            FAIL

            If nobody voted, it would have a considerable effect.

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

      2. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: Decades of experience

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

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

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Decades of experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      4. Claverhouse Bronze badge

        Re: Decades of experience

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

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

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oooh, shiny!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

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

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

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

        Actually, many noted just the opposite.

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

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

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

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

  2. Bob Dole (tm)
    FAIL

    Essentially the whole Russian Influence thing is #fakenews.

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

    1. big_D Silver badge

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

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

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

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

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

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

        Based on the released data we have:

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

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

        1. big_D Silver badge

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

        2. Swarthy Silver badge

          Hypothesis C: A & B are both correct.

        3. small and stupid

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

      2. Archtech Silver badge

        The real problem

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

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

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: The real problem

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

        2. Keven E

          Re: The real problem

          Democracy and capitalism have considerably different goals.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

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

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

  3. matchbx
    Facepalm

    I fail to understand

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

    Somebody care to explain.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: I fail to understand

      By supporting an anti-establishment narrative.

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

      Hillary was establishment through and through.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: I fail to understand

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

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: I fail to understand

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

        2. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: I fail to understand

          Er... Trump was HUGELY anti-establishment.

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

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

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          2. SiFly

            Re: I fail to understand

            Don't worry he is actively working on that one

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: I fail to understand

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

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

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

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: I fail to understand

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

    3. gbru2606

      Re: I fail to understand

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

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I fail to understand

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

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

        1. gbru2606

          Re: I fail to understand

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

          1. Twanky
            Stop

            Re: I fail to understand

            Not assassinated. Just murdered.

        2. strum Silver badge

          Re: I fail to understand

          >Antifa uses fascist bully boy tactics

          The irony is strong with this one.

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

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

          1. Jediben

            Re: I fail to understand

            Bullshit. Using the same methodology as the thing you purport to oppose but using a different name doesn't magically make the oppressive nature of your methods disappear. If it honks like a goose and steps like a goose...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I fail to understand

            Antifa IS Fascist - through and through. They just lack the short pants to be the SA reincarnated.

          3. Mycho Silver badge

            Re: I fail to understand

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

            Literally the only thing you can defend about Antifa is that you think they have a nice name.

            By that logic anyone who doesn't support Scientology is a science denier.

        3. Hans 1 Silver badge

          Re: I fail to understand

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

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

          * one example among many

      2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: I fail to understand

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

    4. JasonT
      Unhappy

      Re: I fail to understand

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

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

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

    5. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I fail to understand

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

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

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IMHO the aim was to increase polarisation by providing confirmation bias for all sides.

    Once people feel that their core instinct has been proved right - then their views in many other areas will no longer be subject to revision. They will feel they have to fall into line with others who apparently share that same core instinct.

    Humans are tribal animals. They will pay vociferous lip service to the necessary shibboleths to validate their group membership in their own eyes and other people's.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So in other words, exactly what the "legitimate" political ad buyers were doing, but at a scale something like 4 orders of magnitude smaller.

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  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The only problem I have with all this is that it allows people to believe they are smarter than everyone else.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Reading the rest of the comments I'm going to reply to my own post. I'll happily admit I'm dumb it's what makes me the person I am so now I'll spell out just how dumb I am.

      Black Matters US - "The most unprotected black person in America is the black women".

      This has nothing to do with black lives matter and has nothing to do with persuading left wing voters to vote, it's clearly a push at right wing voters, by pushing a left wing agenda in a false way pushes right wing people to vote, this also applies to picture two about shooting your own shadow (clever use of a common phrase, listen to popular music to get more on that one). The LGBT one galvanises the bible belt. Next up "Defend the 2nd", I really don't think that needs an explanation and finally the "arab" stuff, well, shoot me with a feather duster (more likely than getting killed in a terrorist attack).

      It's all bollocks and unless you can see through it you are doomed to make the mistakes of everyone else, embrace your inner dumbness.

    2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      ...and that annoys those of us who are....

  8. Jay Lenovo Silver badge

    Magnitude of Effect

    "Feel... so much anger ...over these ad's. Cannot vote correctly."

    I have been meddled.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Magnitude of Effect

      Yeah,,, If this is what it takes to pervert the course of American democracy, I am surprised the government of Swaziland does not try to select the next American president.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Magnitude of Effect

        Don't go giving them ideas!

      2. Hans 1 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Magnitude of Effect

        Schwaziland ? no such state, anymore, they just changed their name to "Kingdom of eSwatini" (actually, he did)... I guess Apple trademarked iSwatini so they could not use that.

  9. handleoclast Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Lemme see

    How on earth is something that stupid meant to work?

    1) Craft an ad supposedly supporting left-wing issues. Which right-wingers will not be disposed to believing in the first place.

    2) Push it close to the extreme. So that right-wingers are sure to dismiss it.

    3) Make obvious speling eras and gramaticle misteaks, showing that the person who crafted it (supposedly a left-winger, remember) is an uneducated idiot.

    Then the right-wingers conclude the following:

    1) Left-wingers have extreme views.

    2) Left-wingers are idiots (which is why they're left-wing and not right-wing).

    3) I, a typical right-winger, am far smarter than left-wingers.

    4) we don't want a left-wing president because she's a stupid extremist just like the people who created these ads.

    Nope, I don't see how that could work at all.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Lemme see

      Not all left-wingers are extreme. The more middle of the road ones were possibly the target. Move enough of them away or to vote for the "good guy" and it's a win.

    2. Blavahatlast
      Thumb Down

      Re: Lemme see

      Considering the butthurt riots, the hewillnotdivideus LeBeouf fiasco and the infamous UC and then provocative Charlotteville incidents....

      Suddenly that don't look too far fetched.

      Love, a former left-winger.

  10. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Holmes

    Well, it's just about FEAR

    So that fearsome "Russian Troll Factory".... just a channer in a Moscow apartment? With "Interneat Ressearch Agency" written with a felt pen on door bell button.

    Possibly not even in Moscow.

    Seeing what the "Intelligence Community" latey comes up with in the "transparently engineered crap that would make Stalin wince in embarrassement" department, I fear this is all too likely.

    1. ST Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Well, it's just about FEAR

      > "transparently engineered crap that would make Stalin wince in embarrassement"

      And you know that based on your extensive, real-life experience of living under Stalin's regime.

      STFU.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Well, it's just about FEAR

        And you know that based on your extensive, real-life experience of living under Stalin's regime.

        He is correct actually. Stalin went as far as engineering fake attempts at illegal border crossing by agents to set-up the full chain of propaganda. I suggest visiting the museum of Border Guards in Moscow, the exhibits from the 30-es make for an interesting viewing.

        It takes MUCH MORE to engineer similar campaigns in this day and age because we have much better means to check and cross-reference. At the same time there is an order from above for the campaigns to be engineered. What is happening at present is that a Ronnie Raygun wannabie (with even lesser mental faculties) and a Maggie wannabie are trying to repeat the success of the Empire of Evil campaign which bankrupt the Soviet Union.

        That worked a treat then. Empire of Evil. Out to conquer all of us. We will build superweapons to defend resulting into a weapons race. USSR and Warsaw Pact entered into after the "planned loan" disaster(*) of the 70-es with debts up to 100% of the GDP. They also tried to compete in that discipline and the result is as we say is history. The interesting aspect is the propaganda. Only people with clearance on both sides had the full picture so when Andropov's education ministry published the rag "Where is the threat of world piece coming from" (printed in Finland funnily enough) and handed it to every schoolchild people believed. Same on the other side. The result was that we nearly bequeathed the earth to the roaches.

        When they try it now and they try it hard we can only laugh (and so does Stalin's black ops propaganda dept from under the marble plates on their graves by the way).

        Example: 'Great power competition': Nato announces Atlantic command to counter Russia . If that happened in the cold war we would have said "Woaaaaah. Empire... of Evil... Wave the [stars and stripes | union jack]". What we say now is clowns. Money wasting clowns. Counter what? There is a total of 3 capital ships active in the Russian Northern fleet. Kuznetsov is in for repairs, Ushakov is not ready, half of the ASW brigade is in for repairs or overhaul and so are the destroyers. Pacific fleet has a grand total of 2 capital ships in use and Black sea fleet a grand total of F*CKING ZERO - it is only corvettes and missile boats. Going back to Stalin (and the exhibits in the museum of the Border Guards) he would not have allowed it. He would have set-up a proper provocation. Something with gas, poisons or even a blown up (to be scrapped) ship of the line.

        The worst part of the whole clown show at the moment is that it is not Russia (as USSR had in the 1980s) going into the new weapons race with 100% GDP debt. It is us. So trying to repeat the feat of Ronny the Raygun and Maggie does not bode well as an idea. Not at all - especially considering that Russians are showing the mythical superweapons now. It looks like a mirror image of the 80-es, not a repeat.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Well, it's just about FEAR

      Damn, so that's why I bought those oil paints. They're beatiful though!

      Curious thing about the IRA would be who bankrolled it. There are tenuous connections to the Russian state, but better ones to it being a for-pay influence peddler. Which probably means they took some sucker's money to do online marketing. And it's not like the world is short of those, or that political campaigns poured money into those kinds of companies for similar levels of engagement.

      Still, if someone has the money, I'll meme for cash..

      1. Alien8n Silver badge

        Re: Well, it's just about FEAR

        @Jellied Eel

        "Curious thing about the IRA would be who bankrolled it" - am I the only one who read this and who's first thought was why are Russia funding Northern Irish terrorists? I had to read up a bit to remind myself it's a different IRA, must be a generational thing...

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Well, it's just about FEAR

          I had to read up a bit to remind myself it's a different IRA, must be a generational thing...

          Yep. It typically wasn't Russia funding PIRA, but a fair chunk of change did come from places like Boston. The 'War on Terror' made that awkward to continue though. Propaganda gets similarly murky. So Russia, or Russians spent a bit of money placing ads that apparently swung the US vote. Interfering with elections and undermining democracy! The US spent billions on Eisenhower's US Information Agency, which ran Voice of America and Radio Free Europe before USIA morphed into the friendlier sounding Broadcasting Board of Governors. And part of the justification for continued funding is countering the effects of other broadcasters like RT. Or possibly the BBC.

          It's just something governments do. UK does it via the World Service. US via VoA or RFE, Russia via RT. So rather than this generation being shocked by attempts to influence, they should understand it's a very old game.

        2. Hans 1 Silver badge

          Re: Well, it's just about FEAR

          @Alien8n

          No, you were not and, worse, it took me some time to figure out this was about Internet Research Agency or "The Trolls of Olgino", a Russian state-sponsored troll group

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Well, it's just about FEAR

      Possibly not even in Moscow.

      Correct - most documented sightings are St Petersburg.

  11. MooJohn

    It only proves

    that they *tried* to influence the election, not that they *did* influence the results. Getting a hundred views and a dozen clicks doesn't exactly qualify as a resounding success to me. You can get 10x that amount by posting cat pictures!

  12. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Purpose

    I have always suspected the purpose of these ads was not to influence the election in any meaningful way but to stir the pot if someone is stupid enough to fall for them. Both Blowhard (now President Blowhard) and Felonia are well known personalities to the public well before the election. So with 20+ years of sizing them up it is likely that only the youngest voters would not have an opinion (largely negative for both) about them. The reason the ads have become 'important' is the donkeys do not want to admit Felonia ran an incompetent campaign and is widely detested by very large swaths of the American public well before the election. And she ran against Blowhard who is also detested by large swaths of the public. A competent campaign with a moderately appealing candidate might have won easily.

    1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

      Re: Purpose

      "A competent campaign with a moderately appealing candidate might have won easily." Oh, hell yes. Given that option I would have voted early and continued voting all day...

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Purpose

        A competent campaign with a moderately appealing candidate might have won easily."

        Which is why Clinton picked Trump as the "pied piper" candidate she wanted to run against as she could obviously easily win against him, and so commanded the "free and independent media" to promote him to the exclusion of everybody else, ultimately putting him in the White House.

        As shown by the memo's covering this which wikileaks acquired:-

        https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/1120

        https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails//fileid/1120/251

        1. fajensen Silver badge
          Angel

          Re: Purpose

          Too clever by half! But very typical con-sultant thinking in only re-telling the client what the client was thinking all along anyway for 6000 USD/hour and with many, many PowerPoint slides.

          I find it intersting to observe that only when someone of importance is "wounded", then those dodgy things that everyone has known about for years and years suddenly becomes news*, then they become a scandal, and then the person of importance is finally finished off:

          https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-tony-podesta-a-washington-power-broker-lost-it-all-1524065781

          *) Bill Cosby, Weinstein, Weiner, Podesta, The Nobel Committee House Perv ...

        2. veti Silver badge

          Re: Purpose

          @Peter2: did you actually read those links at all before posting them? There's nothing in that memo that suggests Clinton's preferences, nothing that even hints at "commanding" the media ("free and independent" or otherwise), and nothing about promoting Trump to the exclusion of everybody else. He's mentioned only as one of three names on a "non-exclusive" list of loonier candidates who could be plied for leverage against the more serious ones.

          I mean - I get it, Clinton was a poor candidate with no charisma and a tin ear for politics in general. She was way out of her depth. She made dumb decisions. But this memo doesn't say anything even remotely like what you characterise it as saying.

          Nor does it show anything about Clinton, because it says nothing about her views or preferences at all. It's interesting, in an academic sense, as a sliver of insight into the early stages of her campaign - but that's all it is.

        3. Mycho Silver badge

          Re: Purpose

          More significantly, we know that Cambridge Analytica almost certainly had an agent on Clinton's team, since that's something they boasted about doing in other situations. Who's to say they didn't nudge her toward promoting Trump?

  13. pyite42

    They didn't change anyone's mind, but probably helped with GOTV

    In such a close race, the most important thing is to Get Out The Vote.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still, at least it'll keep Putin in a good mood for years to come.

    He must be ROFL at the stupidity of the claims he put Trump in power.

  15. The Nazz Silver badge

    Royalty?

    Is the odious Clinton so special that she has to wear a gold crown?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      she has to wear a gold crown?

      Given her penchant for falling down, I think that may be a crash helmet.

  16. Peter Prof Fox

    First five words against next paragraph. "Hello kettle!

    <quote>The cache also ads that were racist and inflammatory. However, as the Wall Street Journal observes, when it comes to crafting political memes, the Internet Research Agency was curiously inept.

    "Many of the Internet Research Agency ads include grammatical and spelling errors, and some have no discernible political purpose,"

    </quote>

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why can't they just do it the UK way

    and just let a small bunch of Right-Wing Xenophobic BlackShirt/WhiteShirt-loving Nut Jobs own and control the media ?

  18. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Missing the point

    The ads weren't pro-Trump. They were designed to generate chaos, fear, anger, distrust, and "us versus them" attitudes about the US government. In fact, I don't think it mattered at all who won. Anyone in running in the primaries could have won and we'd still have a political system that's more dysfunctional and partisan than usual. When Trump's time is over, is anyone sane going to ask to take his place?

    There were plenty of propaganda practice runs during the previous elections but 2016 had the right conditions to go full-force.

    1. Prof. William Waterman Sherman

      Re: Missing the point

      Da–I mean–right on. The Russian game was to cast democracy as a disorganized, chaotic mess, as much for domestic consumption as its effect on the States. Regardless of who won, it was win-win for Putin. He gets to show Russians how superior it is to be run by a strongman, and cause America to doubt its own institutions.

      I hear newscasts on both sides talk of how Russia "hacked" our election. They didn't hack the election, but they did hack our culture. They certainly tried to hack our election computers. They had about as much success as they did hacking our power grid. Not a call for complacence, but certainly a call for computer illiterates to stop overreacting and making policy in a panic.

      Personally, I think the old hand ballots scaled well. That was ruined by a small number of Palm Beach morons who couldn't manage to puncture a pre-scored index card. Sorry, for saying, "moron". I'm no better than the trolls. I blame moose and squirrel.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Missing the point

        Da–I mean–right on. The Russian game was to cast democracy as a disorganized, chaotic mess, as much for domestic consumption as its effect on the States. Regardless of who won, it was win-win for Putin. He gets to show Russians how superior it is to be run by a strongman, and cause America to doubt its own institutions.

        I think a lot of the damage was self-inflicted during the last election cycle. Dirty tricks during the nominations to get the preferred candidate in place, even though that candidate came with a lot of baggage. Then the possibility that the FBI and DoJ became politicised and tried to support their preferred candidate. Who then lost, and then it became a blame game. It wasn't the electorate who decided the result, it was the Russians, who interfered! Very little evidence of this, despite long running investigations which have highlighted fresh problems.

        Meanwhile, far from draining the Washington swamp, Trump shows all the signs that the swamp is sucking him in.

  19. Potemkine! Silver badge

    These ads being efficient or not is irrelevant. They demonstrate there was an attempt to meddle in the election. Also, one could easily imagine these ads was the only vector use for the meddling, they were another ones, as show the bank accounts of some lawyers or ex-campaign managers.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wish I could find the research....

    ..I was listening to a Mozilla podcast a few weeks back and they had a great article on this very subject.

    The way the ad's worked mean't they generally hit people already with a interest in politics, and of those, most hit the target demographic they we NOT trying to influence.

    For example, if you are a gun toting, God fearin Republican, with an interest in Politics, you were served ad's saying how great the Republican party were.

  21. RobertLongshaft

    Still banging this failed drum?

    Clinton lost because she is the most corrupt politician in American politics who cheated Bernie Sanders out of the democrat nomination, created ISIS, started a proxy war with Russia in Syria and managed to get away, somehow, with deleting 33,000 emails she illegally stored on a private server.

    The fact the mainstream media is by politically biased and continues to be hasn't help her cause and continues to see news networks and newspapers dying a slow painful death.

    Identify politics doesn't wash anymore, the people have woken up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Top trolling!

    2. strum Silver badge

      > she is the most corrupt politician in American politics

      Dear god! With such a crowded field, what on earth did HRC do to out-distance all the others? (and why haven't all the drawn-out investigations of her managed to unearth a single, indictable offense?)

      1. small and stupid

        Shes a middle of the road Democrat with quite boring and unremarkable policies.

        Therefore the republican attack machine has had to invent shit.

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Clinton lost because she is the most corrupt politician in American politics...

      That's a pretty high bar you've set there, pardner!

      She's up against some of the best, and I doubt she's even in their class. Let's look at the (recent) contenders:

      - The inimitable William "Boss" Tweed

      - Boston's own James Michael Curley

      - Mayor Richard J. Daley

      - Nixon (though probably more paranoid than corrupt)

      - Spiro T Agnew (conspiracy, bribery and tax fraud)

      - our current President (and his "fixer", sons, son-in-law and daughter)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Oddly enough Nixon isn't usually considered corrupt in the normal sense. He certainly got dragged into trying to bury the offenses of the Watergate burglars (who were, BTW, caught on their second attempt at bugging the hotel - the first went fine but the bugs failed); but corrupt as in exchanging monetary compensation for political favours, probably just at the standard US Presidential level.

        If you regard the Clinton Foundation (in its various guises) as a giant money laundering mechanism, then Clinton certainly would be up there with Boss Tweed. And given that HRC has a whole suite of political support staff all employed by the supposedly charitable foundation (so she personally does not have to pay them), you can see how the rumours get started.

        1. bussdriver

          Nope

          Nixon was a traitor; it was declassified. Go look it up; he negotiated with North Vietnam to continue the war and refuse talks about ending the war with the USA. Nixon promised they'd get a better deal when he was president. Johnson didn't dare prosecute a candidate for treason because he thought it would encourage abuse of that ability... to enforce the law.

          Nixon did far more harm than people imagine. You have no idea. Our idiotic Farm policies, HMOs... destruction of the Mexican economy... furthering our promotion of fascism around the world (mostly South America) in a big way...(not that we get all credit, the Nazis were reborn in South America; but we didn't do anything about them except track them; that was declassified too.)

          The Clinton foundation is highly rated by 3rd party groups; they don't have a lot of spare money to do much of anything with-- the worst they can do is help out on projects that skim a lot off the top-- so at worst it's an extremely well designed clever front that is squeaky clean covering for deeper stuff and some are just trying to smear that with haters wanting to believe the lies about it. If they could think clearly, they'd dig deeper into the other organizations and look for patterns but I don't think you'll ever be able to make a connection because the structuring isolates blame. You'd need a strong pattern of 3rd and 4th party organizations planning funds thru it to paint that picture but proving enough to get past plausible deniability to a non-biased reader... just give up; it's not that influential, go work on big oil.

    4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      she is the most corrupt politician

      I do not recall her taking "consultancy payments for the insight into the new administration viewpoint" via her lawyer after being elected as a senator. I do not recall her doing that after being confirmed as a head of the State Department. I do not recall her taking that as a first lady either.

      Sure, she will take money without batting an eye lid including mob money, but as a lawyer by education she knows the limits at which it stops being lobbying and becomes outright kleptocracy style corruption. Sure - she is corrupt. But it is strictly within "propriety limits" for which her family foundation keeps proper audited accounts (instead of laundering it via the family lawyer).

      In any case, she is clearly superseded as the most corrupt USA politician by the current lot (which is exactly why you are getting Pence voicing an opinion that it is time for investigation to stop). By the way - that is clearly an impeachment matter for the whole lot. Taking a bung via your consigliery mob capo style and having him pay off "ladies with interesting professions" with it? If anything else was not an impeachment matter that clearly is.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Well, then Obama going on public TV and opining that Clinton shouldn't be prosecuted for her crimes was certainly grounds for impeachment then wasn't it ?

        And I say crimes because Clinton is guilty beyond doubt on at least 3 matters of recent note - Perjury (swore on oath before a Federal judge that she had handed over all relevant State Department emails - the FBI found thousands that weren't handed over), Obstruction of Justice (deleted 33,000+ emails some days AFTER receiving a valid subpoena to retain them), and violation of US Security laws - which BTW do NOT require intent, just carelessness.

        And just to mention, her foundation keeps such good records that they didn't declare hundreds of millions of foreign donations when they were supposed to, sure, audited, by good friends not doubt.

    5. MonsieurTM

      Well said. It is a shame that some think you are incorrect and misguidedly believe that this information release proves the claim that Russia attempted to influence the US election. Maybe it did: but less that 100 clicks and impressions combined? Come-on: *seriously* that is a fine example of *failed* to influence. The vote was not swung by ~100 voters but orders of magnitude more.

  22. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Devil

    Hah!

    So I went I checked whether Oliver North might already be under suspicion of being a Russian Asset. I didn't find anything but it can't be long now, though it would be hilarious if he were declared an Iranian asset instead.

    Instead, I found this blast from the past, directly from the completely mentalesteemed, broadsheeted, truthfully reporting Jewish-tradition-upholding, desperately Putin-Nazi fighting New York Times back from November 2017:

    He’s a Member of Congress. The Kremlin Likes Him So Much It Gave Him a Code Name.

    The following year, the California Republican became even more valuable, assuming the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee that oversees Russia policy. He sailed to re-election again and again, even as he developed ties to Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia.

    Ties with Putin while on the Foreign Affairs subcommitee? It's a scandal.

    I don't know why Murricans think anyone needs to be trolled in their derelict homeland.

  23. usariocalve

    Facebook doesn't want to say that its ads don't work, but its ads don't work.

  24. Walter Bishop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Russian troll Facebook ads

    Look, what made Trump President was the endless coverage the Mainstream Media gave him, foisting it onto the Russians is merely a distraction.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hiding From Reality

    To me, this whole fake new Russian troll effort seems like a lot of noise so that the Democrats can feel better about putting forward a candidate that would never get voted in.

    America bearly tolerated a black president, just after Obama was voted in I was touring the IBM labs in Austin Texas.

    A huge university city chock full of really smart guys one of these smart guys stated: "Now there is a @~&%ing N@#$$% in the white house its time we leave the union" and everyone other than the Brit laughed.

    A country where your leading lights consider that crap socially acceptable is not ready for a female leader.

  26. Noonoot

    Decades of experience hmmm

    Just because you've been in politics for decades doesn't necessarily mean you're good at it.

  27. veti Silver badge

    You're missing the point

    The ads themselves may have swayed a vanishingly small rounding error of people.

    That's not what they were for. Clearly, the originators spent more on crafting the messages than they did on publishing them. Hundreds upon hundreds of ads, each one only viewed a few dozen times? - that's not a campaign, that's A/B testing. What these ads were for was not to sway voters, but to find out what messages would give the best click/response rates.

    That's why the ad spend was so low. The real heavy lifting was done by the trolls on message boards, some on Facebook but many more out here on the real web. They were the bastards who reduced just about every well-trafficked forum on the 'net to a cratered hellhole in the second half of 2016. And they're still here, ready to do it again.

  28. strum Silver badge

    >had their minds made up in an instant by something they saw on the internet

    Rather misses the point. It's not an 'instant', it's a constant drip, drip, drip of many, many instants. After all, if it didn't work, why would advertisers do it (not just once, but hundreds of times)?

  29. Jtom Bronze badge

    Who these ads would have helped depends a great deal on who the target group of the ad was. If viewed by true BLM followers, they would agree with the ad, and strengthen their resolve to get out the vote for Democrats. If viewed by Conservatives, the same ads would scare them into getting out the vote for Conservatives.

    All in all, though, you would have to have lived under a rock for decades not to know quite a bit about both candidates. These ads would have had little impact in this election.

    Finally, so what? I would think that Obama saying the UK would be put at the end of the line for trade deals if they voted for Brexit, would be hugely more influential and meddlesome in the affairs of the UK, yet there was no great condemnation of it. Hypocrisy reigns.

    1. small and stupid

      Its not meddling if its true

  30. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    decades of experience

    "requires us to believe that American voters discarded decades of experience of the two national figures leading the race – Trump and Hillary Clinton"

    Well, yes, but if the experience was watching Trump play a businessman on TV, and having fantasies about Clinton as the Queen of Night, what then?

  31. MonsieurTM

    There is a claim that Russia somehow significantly affected the outcome of the US election. This release of information further confirms how unlikely and ridiculous this idea is. It is a shame that the media-at-large will not follow this up so assiduously so that the population at large may still believe that unfounded claim.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This statement describes 90% of American "news" agencies and media....

    "Many ads were not politically related, and the ads consistently highlight black and LGBT civil rights issues. Rather than outright back a particular candidate, instead many of the ads sought to set people against each other: blacks against whites, muslims against christians, and so on."

    Any "news" that can inflame readers and draw in "clicks, likes, shares" for the almighty advertising dollar is all fair game for most of American main stream media and facts/truth be damned.

    Many of us have had to go elsewhere to (try) and find sources of information that wasn't just biased commentary or outright lies.

  33. Steve Graham
    Joke

    Wait

    We're supposed to trust an article about Russian conspiracy written by someone called Andrei Orlowski?

  34. bussdriver

    Understated and hard to measure

    A few popular nothing ads can have a huge amount of nearly immeasurable influence. I had people EMAILING me some of these fake facebook ads-- they forwarded it from somebody else. 1 "impression" or "click" on facebook turned into an email chain of which I was just a part of. It could have multiplied 1000 times...from just that 1 person. It was the one claiming the Pope endorsed Trump. Crazy Lie in a tiny image with a few words-- but a powerful message.

    This is a race where a few states decided it by razor thin margins due to the way it dysfunctions. Any tiny action could easily sway it in either direction and the October surprise by the FBI was not at all tiny. 1 pope endorsement could get 20k more voters in Wisconsin... The statisticians were amazing accurate but were bashed and blamed by widespread ignorance in the media; they measured by population and were extremely correct in their projections considering the margin of error was higher than usual (as it gets closer the error rate increases, so the fact they were super accurate is all the more impressive.) The problem was that the election system was NOT modeled whatsoever.

    FYI: I voted for somebody else. Hillary's people said they didn't need us (bernie supporters) so they got what they deserved... that foolish move also easily cost them the win.

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