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Twitter Says It Exposed Nearly 700,000 People To Russian Propaganda During Election (theverge.com) 302

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Twitter this evening released a new set of statistics related to its investigation on Russia propaganda efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, including that 677,775 people were exposed to social media posts from more than 50,000 automated accounts with links to the Russian government. Many of the new accounts uncovered have been traced back to an organization called the the Internet Research Agency, or IRA, with known ties to the Kremlin. The data was first presented in an incomplete form to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee last November, which held hearings to question Facebook, Google, and Twitter on the role the respective platforms and products played in the Russian effort to help elect President Donald Trump. Twitter says it's now uncovered more accounts and new information on the wide-reaching Russian cyberintelligence campaign.

"Consistent with our commitment to transparency, we are emailing notifications to 677,775 people in the United States who followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked a Tweet from these accounts during the election period," writes Twitter's public policy division in a blog post published today. "Because we have already suspended these accounts, the relevant content on Twitter is no longer publicly available."

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Twitter Says It Exposed Nearly 700,000 People To Russian Propaganda During Election

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  • by comodoro ( 4850881 ) on Saturday January 20, 2018 @09:17AM (#55966727)
    Is it that ad ridden social network full of crackpots, some of them threatening with nuclear war? Does anybody sane still use it?
    • Yes. First, I use a 3rd-party client so I never see any ads. Second, I primarily follow my local major metropolitan transit agency that broadcasts system status updates that might affect my commute. (They also often respond in near real-time to issues I report.) Third, I follow a very small number of people I find interesting. I never interact with any of the crackpots.
  • Meanwhile... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DeplorableCodeMonkey ( 4828467 ) on Saturday January 20, 2018 @09:18AM (#55966729)

    The rest of the world just takes it as a given that they're being exposed to American propaganda.

    There is a huge whiff of "us be bad guys, us get taste of own medicine? Unpossible!"

    Maybe if the Democrats had run Sanders and not Felonia Von Pantsuit, they wouldn't have given the Russians such a target-rich environment.

    Look, it's not hard. If Clinton were the Foreign Minister of any of our NATO allies, her government would have put her in prison for a very long time for even a third of what she's accused of doing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Megol ( 3135005 )

      Most NATO countries are civilized, civilized countries doesn't put people in jail because of accusations.
      Turkey isn't civilized. Many reasons for that, sadly.
      The US isn't civilized - Guantanamo anyone?

  • Hypocrites (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    What about twitters own people saying on video they wish to "ban a way of talking" from "shitty people"... their words. Forget russia what about twitter's own propaganda via censorship?

  • If this really was a disinformation campaign, it wasn't even vaguely successful.

  • Twitter would melt down overnight if they enforced this in an even remotely evenhanded way.

  • by RedK ( 112790 ) on Saturday January 20, 2018 @09:58AM (#55966823)

    Changing the trending section to show TrumpShutdown instead of SchumerShutdown, even though a basic Civics class and understanding shows clearly that this is a Democrat action isn't propaganda ?

    Removing the hashtag Release the memo from trending because a left leaning PAC said something about Russian bots isn't propaganda ?

    Twitter please. And they say right wingers are prone to believing conspiracies.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly. The translation of all this is "the candidate we were supporting with everything we had lost, and we're gonna get even by whatever lies we have to tell".

      • That's not what's happening. The Dems have two issues they won't move on. DACA & CHIP. Both are supported by a majority of Americans. Both seem fairly reasonable. Furthermore, the Republicans have a long, long history of reneging on promises. The Dems would be fools to take the bait. They'll just get blamed when either DACA or CHIP goes down in flames.

        The Republicans have a huge edge here. For one thing they control all branches of the government. For another their largely indifferent to DACA & C
        • by Straif ( 172656 )

          CHIP is fully funded in the current Republican budget that passed the House and the Dems blocked in the Senate.

          As for DACA most Republicans, including Trump, have already stated they are ok with allowing the current DACA recipients to stay but want to end other immigrations problems such as chain migration and the visa lottery; two system that effectively allow tens of thousands of immigrants into the country with no skills requirement. There may be some back and forth about funding the wall but if the Dem

          • Explain this [redstate.com]. What you call chain migration others call reuniting families.

            To be fair the Dems aren't out to protect us all that much either. If they were they'd do something about the 500,000 [usatoday.com] workers here on expired visas, most of whom came here on H1-Bs. I don't really care about 'chain' migration because that's mostly Mexicans taking low pay service jobs.

            But anyway, Trump could send those 500k illegal aliens (expired visas, so the term fits) back any time he wants. With the stroke of a pen. He co
    • The TrumpShutdown Hashtag got far more Tweets than SchumerSchutdown http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trumpshutdown-beats-schumershutdown-hashtag-battle-assign-blame/story?id=52487452 [go.com]. Twitter didn't make a political decision there. This is also in keeping with the fact that more Americans blame the Republicans than the Democrats for the shutdown https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/more-blame-republicans-than-democrats-for-potential-government-shutdown-post-abc-poll-finds/2018/01/19/c4fce2f6-fd32-11e7-ad8c [washingtonpost.com]
  • So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by azcoyote ( 1101073 ) on Saturday January 20, 2018 @10:01AM (#55966829)

    I'm fairly sick of Twitter and Facebook going on about this. The Internet is full of propaganda. The world is full of propaganda. We should not be surprised if Russia meddled a bit, because we meddle in everyone else's affairs, especially in the Middle East. I don't like Trump much either, but the fact is that people are using this merely as a way to comfort themselves about him having won the election. But does it really make a difference? Were we really naive enough to think that democracy was truly fair in the first place?

    Let's think about this rationally. 700,000 were exposed; that's a tiny number. A Google search says that almost 139,000,000 voted. So that means that about 0.5%--a mere half percent of voters may have been exposed. But chances are that only some of those who were exposed actually voted. And then most of them probably already were Trump supporters in the first place, who merely grabbed hold of the propaganda as confirmation of their already-held point of view. So it's impossible to say how much it affected the vote--especially given the complexities of the electoral college and the fact that we do not know where these viewers lived--but chances are that it did not affect it enough to have swayed anything.

    Or let's put it another way: the burden of proof would be on those who would claim that Russia actually changed the outcome of the election. Prove it. I sincerely doubt that it will ever be proved, but people will go on and on about it because it gives them a kind of comfort to think that it was really the fault of some sinister external force. People love blaming outsiders, or even internal minorities who are treated as outsiders--such as Mexicans like myself--but it is a sad, pathetic, illegitimate comfort.

    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Saturday January 20, 2018 @10:07AM (#55966855)

      It's hard to say with only incomplete information, but what little commentary I have seen on he Russian efforts suggests it wasn't aimed just at electing Trump. It was aimed to fuel division and increase hostility by producing material aimed at both left and right to convince them that the opposing faction are not merely in disagreement, but are a dangerous and evil force that must be fought and exterminated, and that only traitors seek compromise.

      They saw a trend that was to their favor. They pushed further in that direction.

      • by RedK ( 112790 )

        Because "painting republicans as evil" hasn't been a thing for decades in the US right ?

        I've lived a somewhat decent span a time (born in the 70s) and all my life I heard about how Republicans are evil, from all sorts of media and publication.

        So even that line of "sow division" is tired. No one needed the Russians to do that. Especially not with the current climate in academia, where outside "black blocks" come in and torch Berkerley over a conservative speaker.

        • by Entrope ( 68843 )

          Russia benefits from Americans being more divided and busy fighting each other instead of digging up dirt on Russian black-bag jobs, imposing more sanctions, and so forth. Russia does not necessarily heighten those divisions with the goal of helping any particular American faction.

          • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

            American Exceptionalist Swiftboating. It's not Russia that has illegally invaded more than half a dozen nations over the last 15 years, had a kidnapping & torture program, allows its military to round up citizens on its own soil without a trial, and wants to spy on the communications of every person on the planet, including allied heads of state.

      • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

        It was aimed to fuel division and increase hostility by producing material aimed at both left and right to convince them that the opposing faction are not merely in disagreement, but are a dangerous and evil force that must be fought and exterminated, and that only traitors seek compromise.

        To do.......what? Of all the completely evidence-free conspiracy theories making up Russiagate, this is one of the dumber ones. Not to mention insulting - does anyone actually think that minorities only became aware tha

    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jonsmirl ( 114798 ) on Saturday January 20, 2018 @10:44AM (#55966971) Homepage

      You are missing a big piece -- the horrible ineffectiveness of Internet ads. So what if 700,000 people were exposed. I am exposed to several thousand Internet ads a day. I remember none of them. They are just clutter that I ignore. You probably need to expose me to an ad 5,000 times before I will notice it. I may have been exposed to the Twitter and Facebook ads, who cares, I never noticed them.

      This Russian ad spend was on the order of a few hundred thousands dollars. A couple hundred thousand does nothing when applied to large numbers of people. Put into perspective that the candidates spent two billion dollars.

      You can then try to make the argument that the Russians highly focused the ads on to a specific target group. But that rapidly turns into preaching to the choir. It is easy to get a highly targeted group to do what the ads imply, that is simply because they were very likely to do whatever it was anyway. But there is no way that 700,000 people is a tightly selected group like that.

      • by gnunick ( 701343 )

        You are missing a big piece -- the horrible ineffectiveness of Internet ads. So what if 700,000 people were exposed. I am exposed to several thousand Internet ads a day. I remember none of them. They are just clutter that I ignore. You probably need to expose me to an ad 5,000 times before I will notice it. I may have been exposed to the Twitter and Facebook ads, who cares, I never noticed them.

        That's some excellent reasoning if we're talking about ads, but it seems to me that you're responding here to something else that failed to fully engage your attention (TFS)--even though it provoked you to write a reply. This isn't about "Internet ads" that people were merely "exposed" to. The fact that someone actually followed a troll account, or liked or reposted a "tweet" proves that they were actually engaged and inspired to take action based on its content.

        "Consistent with our commitment to transparen

      • which is just how slim a margin Trump won by. A small amount of spending in the right place is all that was really needed. Now, to be fair a big part of the problem is Hilary, like Romney before her, got ripped off by her consultants (by all accounts 5 of them took $700 million of the $1 billion she had and did nothing with it, they just kept it).

        You're also forgetting what they ads were like. They weren't 'vote Trump!' ads. They were targeted to Trump voters. They were there to rile up and scare Trump
    • by tomhath ( 637240 )

      And then most of them probably already were Trump supporters in the first place, who merely grabbed hold of the propaganda as confirmation of their already-held point of view

      That's the most important point. Being exposed is not the same as being influenced. I find it very hard to believe that anyone who subscribed to those accounts changed their vote because of what they read there.

    • but that doesn't mean we shouldn't do something about it. I'm not surprised murders and robbers exist. But that doesn't mean I disband the police and leave my doors unlocked.

      And I recognize there are a _lot_ of mentally vulnerable people out there. It's too difficult and risky to bar them from voting. It's also tough to get the right information to them, but we can at least try. We can also invest in teaching people critical thinking and making them aware that propaganda exists.
    • That is a very naive way of looking at the Russian meddling. Russia does not have the interest of any US citizen, either Democrat or Republican. The US does not meddle in the elections of other normal democratic countries like Russia does.

      Russia meddled in the 2016 US election. It meddled the UK Brexit referendum. Russa has launched a campaign to influence Mexico’s 2018 presidential election. Marcon's team said that their servers were hacked by a group likely to be associated with Russians during t

  • Those exposed will be multi-millions.

    "... also removed more than 220,000 third-party apps responsible for millions of suspicious tweets ..."

    And that's only the little bit the Russians did. My gut feeling is the game was much bigger still. The real totals will be appreciated only after it's not affecting.

  • Wow. They reached 0.5% of the registered voters. With an indeterminate effect on even those. That's pretty much a failure.

    When will the sore Hillary! losers stop looking for someone else to blame, for their election failure?

  • Out of 330M or so...one person in 500 was "exposed" to Russian bad-thought, which isn't the same as "one person in 500 changed their vote to Trump as a result of Russian bad-thought....

    Doesn't sound like much of a problem to me. It's not like people weren't exposed to foreign media regularly, all of which talked about the American Presidential elections at one time or another (it does,after all, have a moderately enormous affect on the world as a whole).

    • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

      Like the $5000 on Facebook ads (many of which were anti-Trump or hawking Obama merchandise) in an election where Hillary spent a biiiiiiilion dollars.

  • Now Russia is associated with right-wing conservatism? WTF? When did this happen?

    It's almost as if the left is using the time honoured tactic of accusing the opposition of doing exactly what you are doing.

    For example, hypothetically, let's suppose the DNC paid to have Russian sources create a phony dossier, then use that dossier to get a FISA warrant to spy on the opposition party.

    That would certainly be collusion on the part of the DNC and Russia. And what better way to distract the public than to blame Tr

    • It's almost as if the left is using the time honoured tactic of accusing the opposition of doing exactly what you are doing.

      ...that Democrats are just as much of a crazy right-wing party as the GOP. In fact, most of the crazy freakshow stuff - like Obama ending habeas corpus - have come from Dems, not R's.

      It's almost as if right-wing Democrats are using the time honoured tactic of accusing the opposition of doing exactly what you are doing.

      FTFY. And of course its Swiftboating - everything Hillbots have b

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