Kushner’s Digital Armies and Facebook’s .1%

Back in May, I called attention to NYT’s mention of the importance of Jared Kushner’s successful reversal of his father-in-law’s digital targeting to cement their relationship.

Amid its larger narrative that Kushner and Trump actually haven’t been that close all that long, the NYT also reminds that Kushner got a lot of credit from his father-in-law for reviving the digital aspect of the campaign.

Mr. Kushner’s reported feeler to the Russians even as President Barack Obama remained in charge of American foreign policy was a trademark move by someone with a deep confidence in his abilities that critics say borders on conceit, people close to him said. And it echoes his history of sailing forth into unknown territory, including buying a newspaper at age 25 and developing a data-analytics program that he has said helped deliver the presidency to his father-in-law.


Despite the perception that he is the one untouchable adviser in the president’s inner circle, Mr. Kushner was not especially close to his father-in-law before the 2016 campaign. The two bonded when Mr. Kushner helped to take over the campaign’s faltering digital operation and to sell a reluctant Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox News’s parent company, on the viability of his father-in-law’s candidacy by showing him videos of Mr. Trump’s rally during a lunch at Fox headquarters in mid-2015.

There lots of reasons to look askance at Trump’s data program, even before you consider that it was so central in a year where Trump’s opponent got hacked. So I find it notable (which is where I’ll leave it, for now) that Kushner’s role in the digital side of the campaign was so central to his perceived closeness to Trump.

McClatchy reports that the Congressional investigation committees are looking into my suspicions: that Kushner’s digital targeting may have been assisted by Russian obtained data (though I hope someone considers whether Russians also hacked Hillary’s analytics programs, blinding her to problems in places like MI).

Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries.

I’m glad they are doing this, but I’m a bit troubled by the belief (based in part on what I consider unproven analysis that Congress has already mainlined) that all the trolls and bots were Russian.

By Election Day, an automated Kremlin cyberattack of unprecedented scale and sophistication had delivered critical and phony news about the Democratic presidential nominee to the Twitter and Facebook accounts of millions of voters. Some investigators suspect the Russians targeted voters in swing states, even in key precincts.

Russia’s operation used computer commands knowns as “bots” to collect and dramatically heighten the reach of negative or fabricated news about Clinton, including a story in the final days of the campaign accusing her of running a pedophile ring at a Washington pizzeria.

One source familiar with Justice’s criminal probe said investigators doubt Russian operatives controlling the so-called robotic cyber commands that fetched and distributed fake news stories could have independently “known where to specifically target … to which high-impact states and districts in those states.”

I say this for two reasons. First, because a lot of it was self-evidently coming from 4Chan. 4Chan would (and I suspect has been) willfully manipulated by Russians or their agents, but a lot of the actual activity was American.

And that instinct is backed by an entity that has far better data than the researchers Congress has heard from (publicly at least): Facebook. Facebook, which was ground zero for the sharing of fake stories during the campaign, maintains that just .1% of the “civic content” on Facebook during the campaign was malicious propaganda.

In a fascinating report on the use of the social media platform for Information Operations released yesterday, Facebook make a startling claim. Less than .1% of what got shared during the election was shared by accounts set up to engage in malicious propaganda.

Concurrently, a separate set of malicious actors engaged in false amplification using inauthentic Facebook accounts to push narratives and themes that reinforced or expanded on some of the topics exposed from stolen data. Facebook conducted research into overall civic engagement during this time on the platform, and determined that the reach of the content shared by false amplifiers was marginal compared to the overall volume of civic content shared during the US election.12

In short, while we acknowledge the ongoing challenge of monitoring and guarding against information operations, the reach of known operations during the US election of 2016 was statistically very small compared to overall engagement on political issues.

12 To estimate magnitude, we compiled a cross functional team of engineers, analysts, and data scientists to examine posts that were classified as related to civic engagement between September and December 2016. We compared that data with data derived from the behavior of accounts we believe to be related to Information Operations. The reach of the content spread by these accounts was less than one-tenth of a percent of the total reach of civic content on Facebook.

And they say this in a report that also coyly confirms they’ve got data confirming Russia’s role in the election.

But in the US election section, the report includes a coy passage stating that it cannot definitively attribute who sponsored the false amplification, even while it states that its data does not contradict the Intelligence Community’s attribution of the effort to Russian intelligence.

Facebook is not in a position to make definitive attribution to the actors sponsoring this activity. It is important to emphasize that this example case comprises only a subset of overall activities tracked and addressed by our organization during this time period; however our data does not contradict the attribution provided by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence in the report dated January 6, 2017.

That presents the possibility (one that is quite likely) that Facebook has far more specific forensic data on the .1% of accounts it deems malicious amplifiers that it coyly suggests it knows to be Russian intelligence. Note, too, that the report is quite clear that this is human-driven activity, not bot-driven.

All of which is my way of saying the Committees really ought to bring in Facebook’s engineers (in closed session so Facebook doesn’t freak customers out over the kinds of analytics it can do), to understand what this .1% really means, as well as to have a sense of how the .1% interacted with the far larger group of people spreading fake stories.

As I say over and over, some of this is definitely Russian. But the underlying activities — the ratfucking being led by people who were ratfucking while Putin was still in law school — are also things Republicans do and have been doing for decades.

Let’s understand if Kushner served as a pivot between data stolen by Russians and fake news targeted at Michigan (among other states). But let’s be clear that some of the trolling was done by red-blooded Americans.

65 replies
  1. lefty665 says:

    Let’s not forget the degree to which Hillary’s campaign did itself in. A book on the campaign “Shattered”, while anything but a technical analysis, makes it very clear that Mook and his data brigade booted the closer than expected races in PA, MI, WI and OH, but especially Michigan all by themselves.  Political malfeasance rather than Russian interference was the cause of the losses.

    Specifically in Michigan, after Sanders totally unexpected and massive primary upset, Mook and company :

    (1) Did not adjust their analytics on the theory that their profiles were inaccurate for the primary with its low turnout but were right on for the general.

    (2) Blew off impassioned and never ending pleas from state Dems who were seeing the failure of the campaign on the ground because they knew better than the local yokels.

    (3) Rejected repeated pleas from surrogates like, and specifically including, Bill to campaign in suburbs and less urban areas. They ridiculed “Grandpa” and other older pols as relics of antiquated politics.

    (4) Focused on cities with large minority populations on the theory that turnout there would carry the day as it had for Obama, and as it had during the southern primaries earlier in the year. In the southern primaries they had erected a wall of black urban Dems to defend against Sanders.  They appealed to those primary voters while alienating non-minority voters attracted to the old white Jewish guy with the Brooklyn accent. It was not just Repubs Hillary considered a basket of deplorables.

    Did the Russians fiddle around the edges of the election? That would not be a surprise, and we should know the extent of what they did and what we need to do to protect our elections the future.  BUT that needs to proceed against the backdrop that the Russians did not put Trump in the white house. Hillary Clinton and her campaign did, the presidency was hers to lose and she did. In addition to Mook’s massive failure, which has been termed political malfeasance with considerable accuracy, Hillary blew through around a billion dollars while running a campaign about nothing, perhaps the worst major campaign for president in the history of the country.

    A recurring theme in “Shattered” is Hillary prodding her staff to produce reasons why she was running for president. They never succeeded, as the book makes clear, because they never got much guidance from Hillary. “Because it’s my turn” and “I’m with her” were about the best they could do.  They lost to “Make America Great Again”.  That pretty much tells the tale, and that is not Russian meddling.


    • John Casper says:


      “Let’s not forget the degree to which Hillary’s campaign did itself in.”

      434 words on the wrong thread.

      If it wasn’t intentional, will you request the mods remove it and donate something for their time to repair your mistake?

      If it was intentional, as long as you’re spamming sites to sell a book, why not leave a link? https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01JWDWP6W/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

      Please pay the advertising costs up front. Is a $1,000/month a good start?

    • Z says:

      All of this may be true but the reality is that this article is about whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election.  Even if everything you say is true, it’s the equivalent of an individual hiring a hitman to kill his wife, paying the hitman half the sum in advance, and then the hitman not being able to carry out the contract because the wife fell into an open manhole and died.  It looks like the intent and action was there – we can’t exonerate criminals based on counterfactuals.

      • lefty665 says:

        Marcy twice specifically expressed interest about the results in Michigan. I responded  specifically to that.

        “we can’t exonerate criminals based on counterfactuals” True, but we can have a rational understanding that whatever criminal acts there may have been they were trivial compared to the principal’s (Hillary & co in this instance) political malfeasance.

  2. Saul Tannenbaum says:

    “Did the Russians fiddle around the edges of the election?”

    In an election won by 80,000 votes in three states, it’s *all* edges.

    One of the things that makes post election analysis maddening to me is that, with an election this close, you really cannot rule out anything as a, cause

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Indeed.  Hillary’s poor campaign – which made Theresa May’s look energized – was one of those “edges”.  But with hindsight, this election hinged on dozens of edges, many of which might have been manipulated.  The manipulators could have been Republican Rovebots or their successors.  Others were Russians. Potentially others were simply malicious. 

      All this demands thorough investigation and the setting of election process standards – not GOP trolling through the personal data of every voter in the country and holding the data in jumped up, insecure data farms at the Pentagon or White House or Rove’s or Bannon’s basements.

      Donald (as is the GOP-controlled Congress) is going to great lengths to avoid addressing these massive potential vulnerabilities in the US election process – other than to use them as a smokescreen for a crudely designed voter deregistration drive against Democrats.  Trump is abundantly crude, stupid and arrogant.  But this smacks of protecting the family jewels from the repo man.

      • Rugger9 says:

        Don’t forget the voter suppression, gerrymandering and dirty tricks from the GOP and the thousands of still-uncounted ballots in MI that would potentially flip the state (as another example).  It was a death of the thousand cuts, but the Russian data helped to refine an already finely tuned election fraud operation.

        And, let’s not forget Comey’s completely unprofessional and literally unwarranted nothing-burger email bombshell  while sitting on the already known Trumo ties to the Russians as well as our own mob, aided and abetted by the NYT’s hyping due mostly to CDS.

        Republican policies are roundly despised, yet they “win” elections because they cheat.

    • bmaz says:

      Exactly. In the legal world, when considering causation, the fall back analysis is usually the “but for” test. But for X the result would have been different. There are many of those in the 2016 Presidential general election. Others may differ, but I tend to care more about external and/or third party forces than general campaign anomalies or frailties. To wit, I think there is a discernible difference in quality between Clinton not campaigning hard enough in one or more states, and outside artificial forces like Comey’s insertion into the dynamic and Russian coordination/action. But there are numerous “but for” points either way.

      • Evangelista says:

        Under a law system foundationing on Presumption of Innocence questions of non-performance are questions of contract, civil, not criminal disputes.  Illegal contracts, e.g., contracts to commit crimes, are illegal contracts and nonperformances are not actionable.  Active performances are requisite for actions at law.  Without active performances the participants, for presumption of innocnece, must be presumed innocent, including of actual intent.  The act of offering money to someone to perform a crime is a wrongful action, but not a crime — until the contractee makes an actual attempt to commit the crime.  Then the inducement becomes a contributing component in the attempt (successful or not) a participation in the crime if the attempt, to any degree, succeeds.

        Thus, If John McCain hired Christopher Steele to cook up a ‘plausible’ dossier on Donald Trump with intent to frighten Trump’s campaign manager to contact someone in Moscow to attempt to break into DNC computer files (we have to make the password ‘Watergate”) to find out if the Dems have the Dirt, even if the “agent” in Moscow (we can call her ‘Voldmort Putain’ and make her an emigrant to Moscow from Couer D’alene) composes a phishing letter (“Pouf Partners Dating Service needs your particulars”), if Hilary has John Podesta paged at the Happy Valley Hilton (“John, Hilary can’t remember if your password is four asterisks or four hashes, please call her.”), so Ms. Putain is put out of the loup (left hanging by her Pend Oreille), then neither Putain nor Moscow can be legally defined incriminated in any leaks issuing from Podesta, whether he is skewered by the press or hacked by trolls.  In a law system where Presumption of Innocence prevails.

        In the Conceived-in-Corruption and Baffle-em-with-Bullshit based Commercial Law excused legal sytem of the current Imperial Corporate United States, however, where the rule is “Anything Goes if you can Get Away With It”, however, the foregoing may not be the case, and at the end of a biblically exhaustive genealogy of ‘but fors’, just about any monstrosity might be found conceived. Even a “Blame Putain”, or a “Free John McCain”, or whatever else that might be the most stupid thing you can think of.
        Is it time to revert to old-time Presumption of Innocence forms? Or is the current corruption still too much fun to put out to hang?

    • lefty665 says:

      My point was that the only reason this election was even vaguely close, and that Hillary lost Michigan, was massive incompetence on the part of Hillary and Mook. So yes, anything could be the cause, but the elephant in the room was, and is, political malfeasance.  How bad were they?  They lost to Donald F#$%^&* Trump, that’s how bad they were. Until Dems accept that and reform it is unlikely things will get better for them or for the country. Demonizing the Russians to displace Dem acceptance of responsibility for this disaster avoids reality and sets the stage for more disasters.

      A desire to understand what actually happened is why people do post action analysis and produce lessons learned that help us make changes to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Examples of lessons learned from smaller disasters are the changing of shipping routes to avoid icebergs post Titanic and the use of helium instead of hydrogen in lighter than air craft after the Hindenburg.  If you prefer ignorance “you really cannot rule out anything as a, cause” (sic).  That does not help us prevent making the same mistakes again and again.

      “Did the Russians fiddle around the edges of the election?”  Is also post election analysis. By your reasoning that is maddening too.  To me understanding what happened and why is what is important. It gives us the opportunity to do better in the future.  I don’t want any more Trumps, or Hillarys for that matter.


      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Following bmaz’s “but for” point, Hillary may have run a poor campaign that dissed her traditional supporters in favor of Wall Street billionaires.  But there likely existed external events that constitute the “but for” circumstances.

        These needn’t be limited to direct vote rigging in the manner of proverbial Latin American or African country elections.  (Lord knows the USG knows how to help those along.)  I mean “opinion fraud” – sustained, massive, misinformation on a scale that could have effected turnout and voter decisions.  (Again, the CIA would know exactly what to look for here.)

        Some of this could have come from the GOP and/or the Dems.  But there is enough evidence of foreign government (Russian) involvement to justify a thorough investigation.  House Trump (apologies to Frank Herbert) and the GOP seem determined to avoid looking behind that curtain, just as would Southern Democrats before the Voting Rights Act.

        The risk that such manipulation will become more common and influential demands that we implement voting process standards, with transitional funding support to obtain them and audit protocols to maintain them.  The Kobach commission suggests that may be as fraught with partisan conflict a process as a constitutional amendment convention.  But we can’t afford not to do it.

        • lefty665 says:

          I surely agree with you that there is enough evidence of wrongdoing to justify a thorough investigation. As Rayne described about Michigan below there are issues right down to the local level. While extensive I expect her list was not exhaustive and that other states had those and other variations on the theme too. Our election system has been creaking along, and in ’16 a lot of wrong came together. I trust everyone around here would welcome an investigation that tackled our entire electoral system. My only concern is that it not focus only on TRUMP AND THE RUSSIANS hysteria. Tim Kaine, a usually rational guy, was even whining about Junior and treason the other day.  Really, he was. Guess Hillary’s Veep candidate came up even higher on her list of reasons why she lost than the DNC and he’s feeling a little defensive.

          While the majority of voter suppression tactics seem to have been Repub, the Dems have their share of election manipulation faults too. They cannot be absolved while the hounds bay only for the Ruskies and Trump.  The Dodgy Dossier is a Dem operation that bore anti Trump fruits as the result of money paid to Russians by people hired by Dems to produce Russian sewage about Trump. Wonder how many votes that cost him, and shouldn’t we know who those people or organizations are?  We know they paid Russians to slime our election process.  Do they also show up on Hillary’s high dollar donors list?  Why are the hounds not after them too?

          The Feds cannot be absolved either, especially Brennan, and nobody is happy with Comey. Where is the Hatch Act when we need it?  Obama and Rice pulled off a very adroit trick, but probably not an illegal one. She ordered the names of Repubs incidentally intercepted unmasked. Obama then lowered the classification level of the reports containing those names so far more people could see them. He practically guaranteed they would leak, which they promptly did. Each acted within his/her authorities. A neat little piece of work and one Dems would be screaming bloody murder about if Trump had done it to them. Congress might want to investigate that while they’re at it.

          As bmaz notes there are several “but for” points either way. For example “but for” the most incompetent candidate and campaign in American history the 2016 election would have been a Dem landslide on the order of LBJ over Goldwater in ’64.  Hillary was running against Donald F#$%^&* Trump in his first ever campaign for anything for Christ’s sake.  Were there irregularities and corrupt influences? Sure there were, but individually and in aggregate they were small potatoes compared to the huge overall failure of Hillary to mount a competent campaign.

          Michigan is a good example. The issues Rayne discusses below may indeed account for the 10k margin for Trump. Random variations could account for it too. That margin is below the granularity American elections are designed to resolve. What it does not address is the evaporation of the 450,000 vote margin Obama had in Michigan over Mittens four years before.  Hillary got fewer votes than Obama did in ’12 and in Wayne, Macomb and Genesee counties combined she got about 175,000 fewer votes than Obama did.  In areas where Mittens did well Trump did far better. Some of those vote losses and Trump votes were likely auto industry related workers who were still pissed about Bill and NAFTA, but who had voted for Obama.  While the final tally was close, the big “but for” is Hillary’s loss of about a 450,000 vote margin compared to Obama four years before, not that local election officials may have skinned two votes per precinct.

          Dems are not seeing the forest for the trees.  A horrible candidate and campaign appealing mostly to minorities while running on policies that have screwed working people for 25 years or more lost. It lost not because Repubs were diddling around the edges. It lost because Hillary was a worse alternative to Americans than Trump. Not only did she lose, but in the last eight years the Dems have lost almost 1,000 state legislative seats. Dems hold the lege and Gov in six states. The Repubs in something like 23. Most of those state and local wrongs will not get righted without more Dems in state offices.

          In several months we will hit the half way point to the ’18 elections and there are few signs that Dems have understood why they failed in ’16 (and in ’14 in the Senate, and in ’10 in the House, and in the states for a long long time).  They have lost all four special elections held since last year, and they have not replaced their failed leadership or reformed their failed policies.  What are they doing? They are re-fighting the last war, intensifying a new cold war with the Russians, railing against Trump, and failing to fix the mistakes they have made so they do not make them again next year. Think Trump is crazy? Watch the Dems as they try the same failed approach again and again and again.


        • John Casper says:


          You wrote, “Dems are not seeing the forest for the trees.”

          Which Dems? Please be specific.

          You wrote 861 words. EW’s original post is a little longer, but most of that is quotes.

  3. John Casper says:


    Did HRC’s campaign persuade Comey to “help” it too?

    If you want to walk down memory lane of last year’s news, why did you leave that out?

    Can we get 400-words and book spam on that too?

    Another option–another one you won’t like–is to react to the analysis in ew’s post.

  4. Avattoir says:

    Here’s one thing troubles me about the McClatchy piece overall – the 6 times reporters Stone & Gordon chose to use the phrase “Justice Department” (5x) or “Justice” (1) with no distinction between the agency currently headed by that unusually blatant & enthusiastic fan of systemic ratfuckery OTOH, AG Sessions, & whatever’s under the purview of Special Prosecutor Mueller.

    Neither the slippery leadership of Senator Burr nor the House committee’s leadership under that Schrodinger’s cat of a chair fill me with confidence of this promising line of inquiry yielding sustenance. If by “Justice” or “Justice Department”, reporters Stone & Gordon mean to refer to the agency outside Mueller’s mandate, I have difficulty foreseeing that branch as any more promising; indeed, from a sturm & durm perspective, it’s seems likely less.

    After all, the Sessions-led DoJ handed out the sweet deal:


    now increasingly drawing this sort of media attention:


    • bmaz says:

      Yeah. Been discussing just that in another forum this morning. Sessions REALLY needs to be put in the chair and examined on the sudden Prevezon settlement. It is not as stunning as if it had been criminal in nature too, but it is still fairly dubious, and dubiously timed.

      For my part, I have less questions about SDNY, and almost all wondering if Sessions ordered it personally. If not Sessions, then who and why. These are easy questions that any competent 1L could posit. Will SJC and/or any other function of Congress ask them??

      • maybe ryan says:

        Would Joon Kim follow such an order from Sessions if he disagreed?  Not saying you’re wrong.  Genuinely asking.  My first reaction was to think there was something wrong at the top of SDNY.  But I have no source and no insight other than disliking the settlement.

        • Rugger9 says:

          My suspicion is that SDNY’s FBI office (which would do much of the investigation) is where the Abedin email BS was hatched, so I would suspect there are more than a few Rudy-bots there.  It’s his turf.

        • bmaz says:

          What choo talkin bout Willis?

          Maybe try to include just a few words, maybe even a complete sentence, with your witty repartee.

        • bmaz says:

          To both you and Rugger9 – I don’t know. Both Preet and Joon have stated there would be no interruption on merits. Do I believe that on hyper political cases like this? Eh, I have no idea hear as to this case in SDNY, but it is certainly possible there was no interference from above. I have seen major cases survive summary removal of a district’s US Atty before here, but I think very hard questions need to be asked and answered. Given Trump, I would NOT bet on an innocuous answer.

          I have SERIOUS questions about this area though. Love to see answers. I think “think” Joon is bigger than the Rudy bots when he knows where they are acting. I am much more concerned about the potential of interference from Sessions and DOJ Main. And I have no base of public or private facts to really form an opinion or know. Wish we could have those facts, one way or another, though.

          By the way, Maybe Ryan, yes I too know your history here (and I think even at TNH, though that is getting to be a long time ago!). I think we are basically on the same page as to the registration withdrawals. They are there. Maybe not significant statistically, but still pretty damn distressing.

      • Rugger9 says:

        I concur with that bmaz, the timing is just too connected to Bharara’s surprise firing for a pennies on the dollar wrist slap.  Even though Sessions had requested the resignation of 46 USAs, Bharara had been specifically requested by DJT to stay on, which I am sure Sessions was aware of due to his campaign connections.

        I think the campaign angle is important and as an attorney himself Sessions would have been well aware of the potential trouble for DJT (note that Jr’s meeting wasn’t well known until this week) if the highest level operatives were connected to a large money laundering case that had several of the same characters.  That might have been the quid pro quo, and the timing just a week or so after Prevezon lost a procedural battle tells me that this settlement was the last best option to make this go away.  If Prevezon had prevailed in their motion, it could have been dismissed on “nothing to see here” grounds and no one would be the wiser.

        I will observe a couple more things: apparently Natalia was allowed into the USA by the Obama administration’s ICE (therefore it’s Barack’s fault anyway), and the reports this morning had another one or two previously undisclosed people there, a translator who might be the same person as a former Russian counterintelligence operative (a spy).  I would call that person a minder myself, in true Soviet fashion, and Jared needs to update his SF-86 again.

        Why does Jared still have a clearance, again?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The SDNY settlement announced by J.H. Kim was $5.9 million on claimed $230 million in alleged money laundering related to transactions in NYC real estate, somewhat close to House Trump’s main business.  A 2.5% tax.  Double that with legal fees.

      Bank charges for the services probably exceeded the fine and fees.  The deterrent value of this settlement is nil.  (Real estate related money laundering is reported to be rampant, especially in London and NYC.)  That assures that the alleged laundering will continue at only slightly higher cost to the participants.

      I can’t wait to read Bill Black’s comments about crimogenic settlements coming out of the DoJ.

  5. klynn says:

    Have you thought of comparing some of the digital targeting story from 2004- Mike Connell-GovTech Solutions-New Media Communications and what happened in Ohio to this new effort targeted nationally?

    • Rayne says:

      Yeah. I have thought of this a lot as well as Rove’s direct mail work. And I think this stuff has completely blown by that methodology, a paradigm shift because so much is available online and in such granular format.

      I also think of that ~190M voter database that nobody claimed responsibility for, out there in the internet for nearly two years. There was more than enough information out in the wild for these guys to start manipulating opinion before the election season started in earnest.

      I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that conservative voters opinions of Russia did a 180 degree turn inside an 18-month period, too.

      • klynn says:

        I guess when I think of “comparing” I’m not thinking so much from a technology footprint point of view due to changes and advances since 2004.  It is more that there are probably some underlying currents/patterns that are carry-overs in terms of targeting states.

        • Rayne says:

          In a meta way, yes. Targeted adverts based on buying history remains a thing and the trends we saw 10-15 years ago are sticky, shaped by two decades of consistent programming by right-wing media. If you bought Guns & Ammo magazine you were sensitive to Second Amendment issues then and now, right? And if you’ve bought a hunting license you’re probably interested in ballot initiatives targeting certain kinds of game, yes?

          BUT…existing technology allows targeting down to the website and the minute. Direct mail could only hope to persuade an identified voter within a week, maybe a day if very lucky. Current technology allows content and ad buys to focus on the site you are going to read yet today, based on what you’ve bought, what you’ve looked at recently, what your family researched on your shared computer, your surfing habits, your favorite streaming media platform.

          You’ve been to [white nationalist site], buy junk food and hamburgers, watch only war movies, voted GOP/Libertarian the last decade — just need to repeat racist/militarized content against the leftist candidate, right?

          But what if you’re a Pinterest and Etsy visitor who rarely votes, married to a guy who visited a porn site last night, whose kids are asking questions about medical marijuana? None of that shows up in your credit card or checking account history if you don’t buy anything. But with today’s technology and the amount of data already harvested on you they can push ads at you and other women like you based on what television show you are streaming and talking about with friends online right this very moment, the day you should still go to the polls.

          There’s no way that a polling company relying on weeks- or days-old data can compete with that. It’s how so many white women were persuaded to vote against their best interests for a wife-beating, pussy-grabbing racist with shitty hair.

          I can’t tell you how many corporate and PAC accounts I’ve blocked because they popped up within seconds of discussing a related topic in real life OR typing about it in social media, sometimes even before I hit SEND. But there they are, pumping ads into my timeline and my friends’ timelines so that we all have the same impression at the same moment.

        • klynn says:


          I agree and I run into many of the same problems online. What we are looking at is 40 plus years of the same mindset/pattern in trying to game elections to the point of using tactical wartime strategies, only this time it is on steroids due to technology and able to be extremely stealth due to technology . The R’s do not name their data research arm Para Bellum Labs just because it is a cool name.

  6. Peacerme says:

    If an athlete does really well and wins a race, and gets caught doping, they lose. They lose credibility, their title (if caught) and their “reward”. It’s irrelevant as to whether Hillary would have lost without the Comey moments, or Trumps Russian assistance. If you get caught cheating, you lose the spoils. It’s very difficult to prove what would have happened which is why, at least in most sports, cheating is a disqualifier. I am recalling a very old Bill Murray movie about summer camp and a rousing chant: “It just doesn’t matter!! It just doesn’t matter!!! It just doesn’t matter!!” In my mind if it’s proven he attempted to “cheat” with the help of a foreign agency he’s not the legitimate president. I think, even the discussion, is letting republicans run the narrative again.

  7. Peacerme says:

    Not saying this article and understanding what republicans have been doing with misinformation for 60 years, doesn’t matter, by the way. It’s important to understand what happened going forward. The discussion invariably gets mixed with whether he’s legitimately the pres. And to me, that’s the question that doesn’t matter. No, he’s not legitimately the pres if we can’t prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he won. (Because he cheated and the results cannot be trusted). The data mining and misinformation strategies are very important and do matter.

  8. Rayne says:

    As of 2016, Michigan had 4810 total precincts. The margin between Trump and HRC was ~10,000 or roughly 2.08 votes per precinct, about 0.0013 of total registered voters — an insanely small percentage. This is not hard to game.

    It would also be very easy to skew polling forecast analytics if one had a backdoor or two, and even easier if one had some inside information from a political party about how analytics were formulated and used. Hello, hacked DNC emails and VAN ‘glitch’.

    There were ~70,000 voters turned away in Michigan. This is a harder number to game, but it would be easy to do in precincts with high turnover in residency — specifically, areas with higher foreclosure rates.

    Recall ‘voter foreclosure’ story in 2008? The MIGOP attempted to use foreclosure as a reason to contest voters’ eligibility. What I don’t know is whether media or political entities monitored the MIGOP in 2012, 2014, and again in 2016; I heard nothing through my connections about ‘voter foreclosure’. Voters’ foreclosure status may have been used and could easily have yielded 2 votes turned a way per precinct — or 2 votes *added* per district. There were a number of Metro area precincts which had overages which couldn’t be explained thanks to damaged or poorly maintained machines, or other factors which made the affected machines conveniently ineligible for recount.

    But problematic purging of voter rolls goes back farther than 2008. A reporter at the time could not do adequate research into ~6000 voters removed in 2006-07 or earlier because their nonprofit organization couldn’t muster $6K for FOIA documentation. The purges began after a GOP candidate was elected as MI Secretary of State; Terri Lynn Land also tried unsuccessfully to close secretary of state offices in majority-minority communities during her tenure. This is more than a decade of repeated efforts to disenfranchise voters.

    Who watched closely for these kinds of attacks on voters’ rights in this state? Certainly not the GOP governor, GOP attorney general, or the GOP secretary of state.

    Knowing this much as a Michigan resident, I give ZERO credence to anyone claiming they know right now with certainty what caused the ridiculously tight margin in Michigan. If you don’t and haven’t lived here, you do not know. Period.

    Regarding the manipulation of content in social media: Facebook used contractors as trending news editors, and many of them were very unhappy with work conditions well before June 2016. By August 2016 Facebook was a cesspool. It would have been incredibly easy to game before and then easily marginalized after Facebook attempted to clean house and set things right. Just look at how Facebook handled staffing; two of the known contracting firms are just that, temporary staffing providers, and conveniently located in red states in the case of BCForward (Indiana) and MMC (Texas). Further, these named staffing firms have a bias toward info tech contracting and NOT media/journalism. Completely gameable.

    It’s rather ridiculous so many people have conveniently forgotten just how fucked up Facebook’s content handling was from 2015-2016 when it made national news at the time.

    Another topic which received too little attention is the Macedonian teen “fake news” cluster. Who encouraged them? Did they receive any other compensation besides Google Ads? Where’d the money come from? This is a form of in-kind contribution from overseas, a potential violation of federal campaign financing laws, shrugged off as just a bunch of underemployed teenage boys with nothing better to do online last summer. WIRED took a more detailed look this February, but by then the damage was done — and more questions emerged, rather than fewer. If these Macedonian teens made money from Google Ads, why didn’t Google catch them sooner? Were some of articles boosted not by real American readers but by “click farms” elevating content with fake likes? Will we ever really know the full story, even with DOJ digging into this now?

    • maybe ryan says:

      It’s worth noting that while the Michigan SOS has changed hands, that the Director of Elections had been in place for decades, retiring recently while saying we need to “shine a light on dark money.”  Not a sentiment you’d expect from someone who spent his career manipulating the voter rolls for the GOP.

      Of course, having to re-register when you move is inherently a bigger hurdle for anyone who moves, a population which skews poorer and more minority.  And the Director of Elections doesn’t control the locations of SOS facilities, which has an impact on licenses.  Still, Michigan is held up as an example of how to implement Motor Voter, turning a higher percentage of transactions into registration transactions than other states, significantly higher than happens in my state, with our Dem SOS.  If you talk to the people at ERIC (the Electronic Registration Information Clearinghouse), they’ll point to Michigan as a model.

      And here is a page from the Michigan SOS talking about registration and foreclosure.


      All of this makes me pretty skeptical of the idea that the voter rolls were manipulated by the Michigan SOS.

      Semi-on-topic with all these Michiganders, has anyone read the Detroit detective novel August Snow?  Why do I suspect the author knows more about the Devos/Prince data operations than he’s put in the pages of his book?

      • Rayne says:

        Do you actually know any county/city/township clerks in Michigan? Have you talked with them to suss their level of expertise in information security? Because all that stuff you slung together means exactly nothing if the county clerk — which is a locally-elected position — doesn’t have their shit together about information security.

        Ditto on dedication to voting rights; the clerk may train volunteers to work the polls, but there is no test to assure that volunteers working at the polls will ensure every registered voter with proper ID at the correct precinct can cast a vote. There were far too many real-time reports on Election Day of people turned away for sketchy reasons and without being offered a provisional ballot.

        There are ZERO standard requirements to run for the county/city/township clerk office except file paperwork as a candidate. I have known people I consider to be a few watts short of a lightbulb who’ve run for clerk; only a returning incumbent kept them from winning.

        As for the director of elections: that office isn’t responsible for the voter registration data which is created and updated by the Secretary of State’s office. It’s responsible for the administration of the vote, not registration data. It is all the difference in the world, especially when the director is both subordinate to the MI SOS and has nearly 1600 election officials to oversee.

        As for Michigan’s Motor Voter program: why do you think former MI SOS Terri Lynn Land tried so hard to shut down the SOS offices in two majority-minority communities, which the DOJ fortunately stopped? You only need to look at party ID of state legislators who voted to close SOS offices to figure out which voters the Motor Voter program is really intended to serve. Her successor, Ruth Johnson hasn’t done anything to rock her party’s support. (Let me point out here that Johnson was Dick DeVos’ running mate on the GOP’s 2006 ticket. Yeah, THAT DeVos family.)

        • maybe ryan says:

          I didn’t assert that there was no issue.  Merely that I doubted the SOS manipulated the registrations.  I could be wrong.  But I did give some evidence.  On the issue of the security implemented by local clerks, unless you’re saying you think the SOS hacked them, that would not contradict my limited claim.  The fact that election judges and even local authorities aren’t always competent is beyond the realm of what I wrote about.

          I’ve had conversations with the former Michigan director, who seemed very knowledgeable about how motor voter was implemented by the SOS and gave us advice on how we could improve it in our state.  I am aware of the old plan to close down SOS offices in 2 majority-minority localities AND 7 other locations.  If the goal was disenfranchisement rather than cost-savings, I’m not sure it was as well targeted as your gloss of the effort would imply.  I still would have opposed it.  And I’ve had conversations with members of the Detroit election commission, though they may not have felt assured enough to confide their fears.  So yes, I have in fact talked to such people seriously about their elections.  I have a fairly good sense of how these things work, even in Michigan.

          Again, I might be wrong on all counts.  But I am approaching this in good faith, I didn’t make as far reaching a claim as the one you seem to be countering, and I hope you’ll respond in good faith rather than anger and disbelief.

        • Rayne says:

          Good faith is one thing. Naivete bordering on negligence is another. The number and variety of problems Michigan encountered during the recount attempt should tell you a lot about the MI elections director’s efficacy.

          Let me guess the same folks you spoke with in Michigan never mentioned ‘voter foreclosure’. And if you can’t see how the budget was used to close SOS offices in districts with more Democratic voters, I can’t help you.

        • Rugger9 says:

          I’d support Rayne on this one, Greg Palast has this election fraud topic as an obsession.  I would observe that Snott Walker would have been recalled in 2012 IF Kathy Nickolaus of Waukesha county hadn’t found several (unsealed) bags of ballots, just enough to put Snotty over the top.  It doesn’t have to be everywhere, just in the right (targeted) places, and that is where the GOP collusion with Russia paid off by refining the target list.  Let’s not forget that the “Gang of Eight” were briefed on the meddling by Obama, and only McConnell wanted it kept under wraps.  Now it is clear why.

        • maybe ryan says:

          On any given situation, Palast may be telling a valid story that others haven’t paid attention to, which is always his shtick.  But my knowledge of how he has skewed some parts of the story of voting rights has shaped my outlook on politics and the ideological wings of the media.

  9. TarheelDem says:

    0.1%, eh, like that’s a small number from 2.2 billion accounts.  If my math is correct, that’s equivalent to the population of Brazil.

    Did someone hire the population of Brazil and set them up to engage in malicious accounts?  What are the chances of running into one of these amplier accounts during the course of an election?

    Maybe this is too simple-minded a way of looking at the Facebook statistics, but that is a lot of garbage in the network.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Well, Facebook usage actually creates a lot of garbage on the network. The problem is that plenty of FB users believe the garbage.

      Targeted efforts can be effective. Probably the easiest angle is to ‘fake-news’ an area, and manipulate the readers to not even vote.

      Example, in an area that research shows will be close, fake-news that area with the message that HRC has got that area locked up.

    • greengiant says:

      Theory,   Its not the fake users on FB,  ( FU Z on the misdirection),  it is the fake news dark ads that get multiplied in the user’s swirl bowl of friends and friends.  Once you know who the best swirlers are,  you know who to send the ads to.  Now on twitter it is a different story,  bots are used to send #hashtags to the hot list,  and the top of any replies on a click,  ( Much to the amusement of anyone clicking on a Trump tweet until the putin bots get back in the holster ).  [ as far as I know from inspection,  social media people know a lot lot more]   Twitter bots exist that will “like” a tweet if it contains the magic words,  like big data, and so on.  For snapshot and instagram that is another generation’s ken.

  10. maybe ryan says:

    The 0.1% figure comes in a footnote of the FB report. I was trying to learn more about it, but couldn’t really find much.

    One thing I would note is that they say they used the information to crack down on 30,000 accounts in France during the recent election. There are just over 30 million French accounts, so perhaps coincidentally, this is 0.1% of French accounts. But the figure in the FB report is “the reach of the content was one tenth”, not “one tenth of accounts,” so maybe it’s merely coincidence that the two figures are both about 0.1%.

    Still, they also tie the 0.1% to “accounts we believe to be tied to Information Operations.” In other words, they used stats only from their known universe. Perhaps they have indeed identified most or all of the malicious actors, or patterns or servers that allow them to create valid estimates. Or maybe not.

    I’m somewhat more interested in the denominator FB used – “civic content.” They don’t define civic content. At one point they speak of “civic events, such as elections,” which seems to imply that other civic events would inspire civic content – local zoning disputes, school budgets, park clean-ups, governor’s races, congressional races. There have been vague allegations that paid trolls engaged in some other Republican campaigns, but still, everything I understand is that the paid trolls were primarily focused on Trump. Why wouldn’t FB use “presidential election content” as a denominator? It actually seems an easier figure to arrive at, since your range of terms to search for are much narrower. Is Presidential election content 5% of civic content? 20%?

    At any rate, there is good reason to believe that the 0.1% figure underestimates the importance of paid trolling to the Trump campaign. The question is by how much.

    And it’s worth keeping in mind that FB has an interest in diminishing the importance of paid trolling on its platform.

  11. maybe ryan says:

    Another thing worth considering is that overwhelming amounts of FB presidential election content relates to over-predicted voters. Hillary fans sharing with their like-minded network of friends, and the same on the GOP side. These are the people most likely to share – outraged partisans. But they’re less likely to be sharing with anyone who might change their mind. So again, you’ve got an inflated denominator diminishing the impact of the numerator.

    One thing that was interesting about the troll campaign was its effort to ingratiate first, then transform – ie, the BLM social activist/Sanders supporter Cassandra Fairbanks, with 10s of thousands of followers, blossoming into a minor celebrity Trumpista.

    I don’t know how successful that was. But I think of the adage that putting a drop of clean water in a sewage bucket leaves you with a bucket of sewage, but putting a drop of sewage in a clean water bucket also leaves you with a bucket of sewage. It doesn’t take a lot of Cassandras, who you had learned to trust, suddenly peddling pedophile pizza, to sow uncertainty. In the compelling phrase of a guy I used to work with, I think the trolls were successful at “stirring up apathy.” They convinced a fair number of voters that both candidates were buckets of sewage.

  12. SpaceLifeForm says:

    OT: DOJ blinks, sorta


    Update: 11:32 AM, 7/13/17 – The Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed this morning that Attorney General Jeff Sessions successfully misled the FBI about his contacts with Russian government officials during his security clearance application process.
    Earlier on Thursday morning, DOJ released a single, heavily-redacted page of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s SF-86 security clearance application form to American Oversight following a lawsuit from the watchdog group.

  13. greengiant says:

    Think Facebook should contribute to knowledge of the contents and information used to do the targeted “dark” ads by Parscale through use of Nationbuilder or the like.   Regarding #Fakenews,  Paul Horner was not the only “independent” making money off of click bait.  There are articles on other US fake news producers.  Produced in Russia as well as Macedonia,  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/05/donald-trump-russia-investigation-fake-news-hillary-clinton,   The Nov 2016  presence of the WaPo in this narrative seems too much foreshadowing.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/russian-propaganda-effort-helped-spread-fake-news-during-election-experts-say/2016/11/24/793903b6-8a40-4ca9-b712-716af66098fe_story.html

    This google “fake news troll factory visit” in Russia has been a thing since 2014.

  14. SpaceLifeForm says:

    OT: The straws are light and the winds are strong

    I would normally say that one could not make this stuff up, but obviously, one can.


    President Trump offered a novel defense of his embattled son Donald Trump Jr. in Paris on Thursday. It basically boiled down to this: Trump Jr. is a “young man” who was taken advantage of by a Russian lawyer who wouldn’t even have been in this country if it weren’t for the Obama administration.

    • maybe ryan says:

      The Henry Hyde defense!

      Hyde was an arch-conservative, family values guy, ardent anti-abortion congressman, who when it became public he had for years cheated on his wife, claimed it was a “youthful indiscretion.”

      He was 48 when the affair ended.

  15. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Suspect FB is hacked based on reports from various users.

    Recommend to stop using until they report any kind of status.

  16. Evangelista says:

    Obviously it is still too much fun.

    After Collapse will be the time for reform and rebuild.  As in Mosul, Aleppo, Raqqa et al, there will be all kinds of scrap building materials available then.

  17. Cold N. Holefield says:

    Evangelista is correct. I’ve been saying it for several years now — Aleppo, Mosul, Raqqa et al are coming to a Theater near you/us. They’re Warm-Ups, so to speak. The Destroyers have been cutting their teeth. In 30 years, America, and most, if not the entire, First World will be Wealthy Walled Enclaves amidst Endless Mountains of Rubble. At this rate, this is The End Game.

    Blame the Lawyers and their vaunted Constitutions they used to strangle themselves and us into obeisant, subservient, feckless paralysis against the Psychopathic Rich. The time was yesterday to do anything constructive about our now Sealed Fate. All you and I can do now is observe until you/we can’t anymore and then there is only one thing left to do — bite down hard on the Cyanide Capsule if you have one, and if you don’t, I advise you procure one post haste because there is no other way out.

    Mueller isn’t about getting to bottom of it all — he and his crew are about containment. That’s what the Lawyers do — they contain. Truth, or anything even resembling it, is anathema to The Law and those who practice it. The Law is an apparatus to keep The Rich rich and The Little People poor. The Little People never had a say in any of it because the intent of The Law is to keep The Little People in their place — The Rubble.

    Ask Sasquatch, he’ll tell you — if you listen.

    • bmaz says:

      Ah yes, blame it all on the generic “lawyers”.

      The willful bleating of the dogmatic and ignorant.

  18. Cold N. Holefield says:

    Facebook, like the Beatles before it, is now more popular & powerful than Jesus Christ. The chains that bind us. There are a lot of fucking chains, you have to admit.

    And to think, Jobs is worshipped like a God. For what? The i-Phone?

    I have watched in disgustful awe as the i-Phone has completely destroyed the incredible potential of one generation and now it’s working on the next generation.


    It’s grooming them for their ultimate fate — Target Practice. There’s no need to burn books when you have the Smartphone. The Smartphone eviscerates the demand for books because it neuters the compulsion to read & know. Instead, it leads its brethren step by step, but ever so surely, into the depths of hell.

    • John Casper says:


      According to you, FB and the Beatles are “more popular and powerful than Jesus Christ.”

      According to you, Steve Jobs is worshipped “like a God.”

      Are FB, the Beatles, and Jobs your Trinity?

      It sounds like you’ve got FB out ahead of the Beatles.

      Isn’t God ahead of Jesus Christ?

      Does that make Jobs ahead of FB?

      Thanks in advance.

  19. Cold N. Holefield says:

    I’m convinced at this point that Trump could have raped Macron’s wife in front of the entire World and The GOP and all Trump’s recalcitrant, intractable, braindead supporters would refer to it as a peck on the cheek.

    Reality, if there ever was just one, has now been officially eviscerated.

    The Singularity has arrived and it is Donald Trump.

    Anomalies are flourishing and soon enough they’ll be ubiquitous.

    • John Casper says:


      If an anomaly becomes “unbiquitous,” it’s no longer an anomaly.

      The dictionary is your friend.

  20. Desider says:

    @lefty et al –
    Hillary ran 2 very close campaigns. She knows much more about this than your backseat driving. It’s an art to decide how much money to put into which state or county or media buy. It’s an art to balance the books and figure out if an announcement will piss more people off than please them – such as satisfying far left liberals or more centrist liberals.
    Its an art to satisfy the media and get enough time and cut through lies and speculation and what not. It’s an art to win 3 prime debates.
    Hillary won the popular vote by 3 million. The least we can do is stop playing coulda-shoulda when someone just stole the election with identifiable crimes.
    While candidates have to prepare for contingencies, she did, and fought back from deficits. She read the polls and they looked pretty good, and while you think she could have campaigned here or there, her decision was different, so stuff it and focus on 1) Comey’s largely illegal and unprecedented use of his position, and 2) the massive illegal cooperation between Trump, Putin, Mercer and other actors to criminally alter the race.
    Fuckups happen. But McGovern lost by a landslide and we still sentenced Liddy and impeached Nixon. Hillary gave decent enough speeches to appear to be winning, not to score a 90-10 knockout or wjatever otherworldy fantasy football runup you expect.
    Russians + Trump + others in criminal conspiracy and collusion. If someone steals your car, itt doean’t matter if you were a lousy driver or even double parked.

  21. marku52 says:

    Russian trolls? What about Brock’s band of paid thugs that clogged up every progressive site I frequented? To me the whole fake news thing is fake news itself.

    Never mind the hypocrisy of the US getting exercised over foreign influence when there probably hasn’t been an important election anywhere in the world in the last 50 years that the CIA hasn’t had it’s finger in.

    The Dems lost a thousand local elections with no help from Putin.  And so now they’ve lost House, Senate, Supremes, and the Presidency, and all we can talk about is the Scary Russians?

    And don’t forget, that popular vote in CA and NY aint gonna save you when the pubs pick up a couple more state leges and can pass their Constitutional Amendments with no help from you, thanks very much.

    Dems gotta get their fecal detritus together in short order, and show no signs of doing so.


  22. Bay State Librul says:


    Thanks. I agree.

    Let’s confiscate Junior’s computer, before he dumps it into the Hudson River.


  23. Willis Warren says:

    FWIW, I’ve been monitoring what I call the Russia/Libertarian connection for a few years.  A lot of this  crap is from libertarian websites, some (a lot) of which were either started by or taken over by pro Russian hacks.

    Zero Hedge comes to mind.

    • John Casper says:

      Willis, congrats on plagiarizing stuff that was in Wikipedia three-years ago and refers to content that is three-years older.

      “Dr. Craig Pirrong, professor at the Bauer College of Business writes that “I have frequently written that Zero Hedge has the MO of a Soviet agitprop operation, that it reliably peddles Russian propaganda: my first post on this, almost exactly three years ago, noted the parallels between Zero Hedge and Russia Today.”[19][20]”


      Have you monitored anything more recent than 2011?

  24. orionATL says:

    in time it will be necessary to subpoena zuckerberg and his decision teams that guided fb post monitoring and fb anslysis of election yr commentary.
    plus political data summary related to bots and fake news.

Comments are closed.