In Two So-Called Fact Checks of Facebook, NYT Forgets Everything It Knows about Indictments

In both this Scott Shane article and this “fact check” of Facebook VP Rob Goldman’s recent tweets on Russian trolls’ use of Facebook (which President Trump then picked up), the NYT has twice forgotten everything it knows about indictments, and in the process failed to properly analyze last week’s Internet Research Agency indictment.

In Shane’s article, he attempts to fact check Goldman using the indictment.

Facebook’s vice president for advertising, Rob Goldman, said on Twitter on Friday, “I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal” — a statement that President Trump retweeted.

But Mr. Mueller’s indictment repeatedly states that the Russian operation was designed not just to provoke division among Americans but also to denigrate Hillary Clinton and support her rivals, mainly Mr. Trump. The hashtags the Russian operation used included #Trump2016, #TrumpTrain, #MAGA and #Hillary4Prison, and one Russian operative was reprimanded for “a low number of posts dedicated to criticizing Hillary Clinton,” the indictment says.

On Twitter, Shane even suggested Goldman hadn’t read the indictment.

Wonder if Rob Goldman has read the indictment. Mueller appears to disagree.

Then, Sheera Frenkel extends the purported fact check.

“I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal.” Tweet #2

Not according to the indictment.

The grand jury indictment secured by Mr. Mueller asserts that the goal of Russian operatives was to influence the 2016 election, particularly by criticizing Hillary Clinton and supporting Mr. Trump and Bernie Sanders, Mrs. Clinton’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination.

The Russians “engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump,” the indictment said.

Mr. Goldman later wrote in another tweet that “the Russian campaign was certainly in favor of Trump.”

Both Shane and Frenkel don’t consider what I laid out here:

[T]here are hints that Mueller is using this indictment to set up a more important point.

For example, the indictment (perhaps because of Mueller’s mandate) focuses on political activities supporting or opposing one or another 2016 candidate. Even where topics (immigration, Muslim religion, race) are not necessarily tied to the election, they’re presented here as such. Unless Facebook’s public reports are wrong, this is a very different emphasis than what Facebook has said the IRA focused on. Which is to say that Mueller’s team are focusing on a subset of the known IRA trolling, the subset that involves the 2016 contest between Trump and Hillary.

Goldman was addressing all of IRA’s activity on Facebook, which it described this way in September:

  • The vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the US presidential election, voting or a particular candidate.
  • Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.
  • About one-quarter of these ads were geographically targeted, and of those, more ran in 2015 than 2016.
  • The behavior displayed by these accounts to amplify divisive messages was consistent with the techniques mentioned in the white paper we released in April about information operations.

Nowhere in the indictment does Mueller describe the scope of what IRA activity his team investigated, though it does describe how “over time” the IRA activity came to focus on the 2016 election.

These groups and pages, which addressed divisive U.S. political and social issues, falsely claimed to be controlled by U.S. activists when, in fact, they were controlled by Defendants. Defendants also used the stolen identities of real U.S. persons to post on ORGANIZATION-controlled social media accounts. Over time, these social media accounts became Defendants’ means to reach significant numbers of Americans for purposes of interfering with the U.S. political system, including the presidential election of 2016.

Indeed, the indictment makes it clear that the universe of IRA activity is larger than the election-related activity, in part by tying two counts of identity theft to crimes that happened after the election, as recent as May 2017.

Eight of the usages of fake credentials described in ¶92 also postdate the election. That’s presumably part of what Goldman was pointing to when he tweeted,

The majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election. We shared that fact, but very few outlets have covered it because it doesn’t align with the main media narrative of Tump and the election.

Even as they, a mainstream media outlet, ignored how Goldman’s invocation of this spending detail and the inclusion of 2017 activities in the indictment is proof that not all of the IRA activities Mueller investigated did pertain to the election, NYT deemed that claim lacking in context.

According to figures published by Facebook last October, 44 percent of the Russian-bought ads were displayed before the 2016 election, while 56 percent were shown afterward. Mr. Goldman asserted that those figures were not published by the “mainstream media” — however, many mainstream news outlets did print those numbers, including CNN, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.

The point is that there are two universes of IRA Facebook activities: the entire universe, for which Goldman’s claims are generally true, and the activities that Mueller has chosen to focus on, which Shane and Frenkel mistake as the entire universe, and in the process blow their fact checks.

This disjunct continues to the citation of real life events planned using Facebook. Goldman pointed to two May 21, 2016 Houston events, where an Islamophobic event was planned on the same day as a United Muslims event, as the quintessential example of how Russia was trying to pit Americans against each other.

The single best demonstration of Russia’s true motives is the Houston anti-islamic protest. Americans were literally puppeted into the streets by trolls who organized both the sides of protest.

Frenkel doesn’t even get Goldman’s reference correct, in spite of his link to a story on it, and instead apparently takes the citation to be a reference to this passage from the indictment.

By in or around early November 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the ORGANIZATION-controlled “United Muslims of America” social media accounts to post anti-vote messages such as: “American Muslims [are] boycotting elections today, most of the American Muslim voters refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton because she wants to continue the war on Muslims in the middle east and voted yes for invading Iraq.”

From which she concludes,

The protests in Houston in November 2017 were among many rallies organized by Russian operatives through Facebook. While the Houston protest was anti-Islamic, as Mr. Goldman said, he failed to note that the goal in promoting the demonstration was to link Mrs. Clinton’s campaign with a pro-Islamic message.

Again, the indictment is focusing on a particular subset of the IRA activity, whereas Goldman is commenting on the larger universe, arguably to say the indictment understates the threat.

With NYT’s mad, repeated rush to fact check Facebook using an indictment that never claims to be addressing the same universe of IRA activity Goldman was commenting on, they commit some pretty significant analytical errors, errors that extend to their ability to understand what Mueller is doing with the indictment.

I can’t say for certain why Mueller focused on certain kinds of IRA activity, but I can think of three likely possibilities:

  • Since his mandate is to investigate Russian tampering in the 2016 election, he is focusing on that subset of the IRA activity
  • Because it is tied to election law, the conspiracy to defraud the US charge in the indictment depends on activity that violates election law, and much of the IRA Facebook trolling does not
  • The events on which Mueller does focus — notably, twin events at key times in NYC and activities in FL that involve three identified Trump campaign officials — may hint at further crimes or more sophisticated cooperation between the campaign and Russian agents

The last possibility is (as I noted in my earlier post) one of the most intriguing parts of the indictment. But the NYT won’t see it because they’re so busy fact checking claims made about different sets of data.

I get the urge to beat up Facebook. They’ve got a lot to pay for in permitting Russia to abuse their platform. But (I suspect entirely because Trump used Goldman’s tweet to try to exonerate himself) in doing so, NYT has missed Goldman’s larger point, which isn’t an apology at all. Indeed, Goldman was saying that the problem is far bigger than what Mueller lays out in the indictment, and that our continued divisions are a vulnerability Russia continues to exploit.

As Mueller moves forward, we’re likely to see similar kinds of confusion between the specific crimes he addresses in indictments and pleas and the larger toxins that hurt our democracy. So long as we confuse Mueller’s investigation for the larger, still vulnerable whole, we’re never going to do the things as a society we need to prevent this from happening again.

Update: My apologies to Frenkel for misspelling her name originally in this.

Update: On the limits of what is and is not illegal for foreigners to engage in see this Rick Hasen post.

Update: I had an exchange on Twitter with Frenkel about this, and the so-called article has what purports to be a correction.

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the month when protests organized by Russian operatives were held in Houston. It was March 2016, not November 2017.

Except that as corrected (by me, though I got no attribution), the piece compounds its error.

The protests in Houston in May 2016 were among many rallies organized by Russian operatives through Facebook. While the Houston protest was anti-Islamic, as Mr. Goldman said, he failed to note that the goal in promoting the demonstration was to link Mrs. Clinton’s campaign with a pro-Islamic message.

According to the indictment secured by Mr. Mueller, there were many other examples of Russian operatives using Facebook and Instagram to organize pro-Trump rallies. At one protest, the Russian operatives paid for a cage to be built, in which an actress dressed as Mrs. Clinton posed in a prison uniform.

None of the materials or contemporary coverage associated with the anti-Islamic side of the protest associated it with Clinton’s campaign. On the contrary. the protest was about a local Islamic center.

A group calling themselves Heart of Texas called for the rally to protest what they consider “Islamization” of Texas – sparked in part by the recent opening of a privately funded library inside the downtown center. The group had also encouraged followers to bring legal firearms.

Although the Heart of Texas group never showed, about 10 people bearing flags of the United States, Texas and the Confederacy were there. “This is America. We have the right to speak out and protest,” said Ken Reed, who wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “White Lives Matter.” “We feel Texas, our great state and the United States is being threatened by the influx of Islam.”

Again, I agree that Facebook is a shitty company. But a newspaper doubling down on its errors to attack Facebook’s errors is … doing what it is complaining about.

62 replies
  1. Paul dirks says:

    “Swaying the election was not the main goal” is not a way of pointing out that the activity was worse. It’s a way of denying the importance of the activity. The point of the ‘fact checks’ was to not let him get away with minimizing the problem. The election was only a subset of the trolling but that doesn’t render it unimportant.

    • emptywheel says:


      Please read the post, and then comment if you find fault with my fact check, which pointed out that both Shane and Frankel made big mistakes in their analysis.

      We do not rebut false claims by clinging to factually erroneous screeds.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Thanks.  This is not a quibble about going left or right around a nuance.  It is about properly identifying the strategies that we need to respond to in order to maintain our democracy – what’s left of it after Trump and his GOP are done with it.  Instead of the oddities that the NYT is employing on its opinion page in order to satisfy the right wing angst of its owners and would be WSJ readers, the Times should hire Rick Perlstein for its op-ed page.

    As for the Russians.  Amplify social divisions along race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and class lines.  Target them geographically, though more so in the year before the election than the year of the election.  That’s playing a long game.  It overwhelmingly benefits the American party that has for half a century amplified such divisions as part of its overt campaign strategies.  It even allows for plausible deniability.  Southern Russian Strategy, with vodka on ice, please.

    • Loneprotester says:

      The problems that have accreted to our democracy have done so over the course of decades, are rooted in monumental societal shifts, and have been aided and abetted by both parties. Trump’s election has finally caused a light to be shone on them. He is neither their source nor their solution. Let’s please keep the Trump bashing to one side while we operate on the patient.

      • bmaz says:

        Oh hai, welcome to Emptywheel. As to your comment, hell no. There is plenty of capacity and bandwidth to do both. Arguing that people ought to lay off the head of the snake gutting and destroying American democracy and governance, from the singular position intended to protect it, is insipid and insane.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    So long as we confuse Mueller’s investigation for the larger, still vulnerable whole, we’re never going to do the things as a society we need to prevent this from happening again.

    Yep.  It isn’t even Mueller’s “investigation” we’re seeing.  We see glimpses of it.  The whole remains concealed to avoid disclosing too much to his main targets.

    The job of informing the public is not Mueller’s.  In the absence of a functioning GOP, it is up the Democrats.  If they miss this opportunity, the plunder will continue, the Democrats, too, will irretrievably splinter, and the plundered will be down the rabbit hole.


    • Procopius says:

      Unfortunately, the Democratic leadership seem to have committed themselves to the Blame Russia strategy and are perfectly happy to distort and exaggerate facts and just make stuff up (like Reupblicans) to sell their product. Nothing good will come of this.

  4. SF Gary says:

    I understand the desire to view the Trump/Russia issue in terms of whether it turned the election but question if that’s the most important aspect of the story. My expectation is that Putin and possibly many other foreign entities have tried more or less successfully to influence American elections, just as the US has no doubt done in their elections. Putin had every reason to prefer anyone other than Clinton be the US president.

    That isn’t the issue for me. Putin helping his preferred candidate, even providing help that changed the outcome, isn’t as serious as the question of whether Trump feels personally beholden to Putin as a result of that help or other past arrangements, crimes or kompromat. Having a national leader open to this kind of influence/blackmail is a problem and while proving the election was perverted is difficult it seems much easier to identify specific evidence of Trump behaving as though he is compromised in this fashion.

    Does changing the GOP platform to the benefit of Russia really hurt us? Who knows? Does refusing to acknowledge or implement sanctions for election tampering hurt us? Who knows? Does obstructing the investigation into these issues hurt us? Who knows? But there is a clear pattern of Trump acting or refusing to act in ways that benefit Russia. Is this, in and of itself, bad? I personally prefer American policy that benefits Americans and am not convinced that Putin and his oligarchal friends have the same goals in mind so I’m uncomfortable having a president who owes them allegiance. So… I don’t care if Putin swayed the election – but I care a lot that Trump apparently owes something to Putin and it’s being reflected in his words and actions.

    There is relatively little coverage of the metaphorical loot that Putin is getting in this heist while all the coverage seems to be about the question of if there was a heist at all. One story is sensational and the other could lead to life or death considerations with a cagey adversary. I wish there was more attention on the latter.

    • Trip says:

      Does obstructing the investigation into these issues hurt us?

      If you want to know the answers to some of your other questions, then this is a definite, “Yes”.

    • Sandrahn says:

      If Trump is “beholden” to Putin, he certainly has a funny way of showing it. He’s killed Russian soldiers & contractor civilians in Syria, massively increased US military presence in Syria in order to effect regime change to a degree surpassing Obama & continues to threaten Russian presence there and that of its allies, he’s launched a huge military operation with Russia’s neighbors to encircle its borders, allowed arms sales to Ukraine (which Obama refused to do), escalated nuclear tensions with Russia, forced RT & Sputnik to register as foreign agents, expanded NATO by adding Montenegro to the alliance, assigned anti-Russia hawk Kurt Volcker as special representative to Ukraine, shut down a Russian consulate in San Francisco & thrown out Russian diplomats – a lot of these things, Obama would not do. Very strange behavior for a man who everyone glibly describes as an “ally” of Putin.

      • Trip says:

        Pieces being moved across the board? So what? Putin inserted mercenaries in Syria without telling the Russian people and attacked US forces. Mattis suspends disbelief and pretends Putin didn’t know. Because there are deaths of chess pieces, and little bottlenecks along the way, you think that signifies that two sociopathic megalomaniacs (and their sociopathic minions) might not have a combined game plan? Or that one couldn’t be indebted to the other?  You have McMaster stating unequivocally that the Kremlin interfered in elections, but radio silence from Trump on that end. You have Tillerson being a cowboy, riding his pony alone with no witness toward negotiations.

        Pissing matches happen all the time, even between friendly dogs. Dominance asserts its place in allegiances as well as with enemies.

  5. Trip says:

    Well, they could also bring up the fact that the Internet Research Agency also produces propaganda and confusion directed inside Russia. That doesn’t have anything to do with Mueller, either. But what the hell, might as well.

    On the topic, here’s an old article about the servers:
    Russian propaganda websites connected to mysterious Florida company
    Green Floid LLC, Orlando.
    Russian Propaganda Traced Back to Staten Island, New York

    So they created some distance between the LLC creation and the servers, which were in Staten Island, unless we find more servers in different locations.

    Found this at the company address in Orlando:
    Reserve Your Virtual Address at 2707 East Jefferson Street Orlando, FL 32803
    Biz Hub Club (BLR, LLC)

    Why would someone want a ‘virtual’ business address in FLA to operate out of NY?

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Why would one create “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” as a Service Mark, owned by “Donald J. Trump For President, INC” based in Virginia, but with a Trump Tower address?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Addresses for the place of formation or incorporation often differ from addresses for the place of business.  The Trumps have hundreds of special purpose business entities.  The technique is often used to isolate liability, to provide for differences in ownership and differences in cost, tax and profit allocations.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          It was a rhetorical question.

          Obviously, the answer is as you said, to hide connections.

          Lets see if some can connect these two dots:

          Meredith M. Wikes
          Patrice P. Jean

          • Trip says:

            Patrice P Jean: Melaniaand the other Trump: MAGA. But are they connected to something else or each other? Not sure the question.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The answer is that it is a common practice.  Hiding does not enter into it.

          Other techniques are used to hide ownership and profits.  Most typical is the plethora of companies, partnerships and trusts incorporated or formed in far flung jurisdictions famous largely for their anonymity.  The techniques are used by major corporations, family corporations run by the very wealthy, organized crime, intelligence agencies, tax frauds and money launderers.

  6. Willis Warren says:

    I can’t feel sorry for Facebook. They’ve done jack squat to counter obviously fake pages that claim nonsense like “Chris Cornell murdered because he knew about pizzagate”

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m not asking you to “feel sorry” for Facebook. I’m asking you not to cling to fake news because you don’t like them, thereby perpetuating the problem you claim to want to fix.

  7. Avattoir says:

    So now I get to add ‘Reads NYTimes reporting for me since I gave it up’ to why I follow this website.

    I thought the previous scion of the manor was quite bad. The new scion gives off a vibe of having grown up with Murdoch’s kids.

  8. orionATL says:

    in my view facebook must be considered to be yet another corporation going to great lengths to minimize its malign influence on society, in this case, on the 2016 u. s. elections. every statement facebook issues requires scrutiny and detailed info that, often, only facebook has but with which it is not necessarily forthcoming.

    ew wrotes

    “… Goldman was addressing all of IRA’s activity on Facebook, which it described this way in September:

    – The vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the US presidential election, voting or a particular candidate.

    – Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.

    – About one-quarter of these ads were geographically targeted, and of those, more ran in 2015 than 2016.

    – The behavior displayed by these accounts to amplify divisive messages was consistent with the techniques mentioned in the white paper we released in April about information operations…. ”

    it is an admirably neat analytical point to distinguish berween the” universal” set of russian (all IRA?) facebook actions and the smaller subset of russian actions on which mueller’s team focused.

    nonetheless, these two comment by goldman:

    “… The vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the US presidential election, voting or a particular candidate.


    Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights… ”

    conflict with each other in my view, and amount to facebook using a formality (“didn’t specifically reference the us presidential election”) as a way of diminishing the actual influence facebook may (and most likely did) have on the election and its outcome.

    “amplifying divisive social and political messages” is precisely what the trump campaign did in spades and what the clinton campaign did not do. “across the ideological spectrum” is thus, in this defense of facebook, suspiciously vague. facebook appears to have been both the trump campaigns and the russians’ media of choice. we do jot yet have info to support a detailed analysis of how facebook was used by either party.

    as for when ads ran, the russians surely understood that a campaign supporting or creating social conflict on guns, gays, god, etc., would not want to start in 2016 to influence the election maximally. 2015 or even 2014 would be better. actually, i think i’ve read that ira in old st. pete began in 2013.

    in any event, trump had been running for prez informallly since his very well received commencement address in 2012. recently it has been suggested the russians anticipated trump running from 2015. certainly trump was the sort of rightwing white nativist like hungary’s orban that fit the russian government’s model of a leader to destroy the western economic, political, and military hegemony that putin and followers consider a threat.

    thus “… the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights….” in 2014, 15, 16 summarizes the likely influence facebook had on thec2016 elections.

    • orionATL says:

      to state the obvious – emptywheel is doing media criticism of a reporter, the nytimes’ scott shane, with regard to his use of the mueller indictments to critique a defensive statement by a facebook vice-president.

      my comment uses the facebook v-p’s comment to raise questions about facebook’s effective role in influencing the 2016 presidential election. from the beginning of questions about facebook’s role, i have been sceptical of their “whadda ya pointing fingers at us for? we didn’t do nothin’.” assertions to the public.

      all the more so when facebook sent a contingent of 40 facebook employees to help the trump campaign’s messaging staff usexall the resources facebook makes available to advertisers.

            • Rayne says:

              Thank you. And though Google Search and YouTube are different platforms, they’re still the same company. Hmm. The big difference between Google+YouTube versus Facebook is that the former are more Pull than Push, whereas Facebook is more Push than Pull. By which I mean GOOG platforms are more likely to be asked (pull) for content whereas Facebook is more like to distribute (push) content into users’ feeds. I wonder how different partnering was between the companies.

            • Trip says:

              Rayne, I think it’s SOP, like I said in my original comment. My guess is that any major candidate would have gotten the ‘royal treatment’ from these companies, looking to make bank, but also to curry favor with whoever who wins, although I can’t be certain.

              I never saw the complete documentary. I wonder where she was located.

      • emptywheel says:

        I’m not doing media criticism. I’m doing reporting ON media criticism (including contacts with Facebook). If you think what I do here is just media criticism I’m happy to exclude you from it.

        I’m dealing in facts. And the facts that escape BOTH you and NYT are that Facebook has admitted to being used for more than just election-related trolling. They’re saying “we got used for the election and also for stuff before and after the election and that’s important because it’s still doing damage” and in response people keep wailing “why don’t you admit to being used during the election!!!?!??!?!??!?”

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          As I said at the top, you’ve focused on an important systemic lapse in coverage.  It’s more important than the insipid insistence on using “collusion” instead of conspiracy, which as you pointed out has actually been charged.

          I see the Russians playing a long game, affecting elections but not directly tied to them.  They don’t have to affect any single election to affect many of them.  I do think, however, that reporting understates how massive databases, sophisticated software and supercomputers – the foundational resources of Google and Facebook, but also in the hands of large nation states – can make targeted and even micro-targeted interventions effective.  That makes it irrelevant to point out, as has the NYT, that Russian meddling was only a small percentage of domestic meddling.

          Sowing systemic chaos and discord in Russia’s greatest opponent is better than any win at the ballot box.  But the themes Russia focused on before and after the 2016 election cycle – increasing divisions along race, religion, gender and class lines – would overwhelmingly aid the GOP.  It has explicitly run on those themes at least since Nixon’s Southern Strategy.

          As bad as that is, sowing distrust for American institutions and election processes generally can lead to outcomes that could take generations to repair, ensuring America’s continuing slide into second class status.  That’s especially true given that this president refuses to admit Russian meddling and this Congress does nothing about it. The knock-on affects among our allies would be profound.  Russia and China would be happy to fill the void or to let its existence work its own magic.

        • orionATL says:

          “… I’m not doing media criticism. I’m doing reporting ON media criticism (including contacts with Facebook). If you think what I do here is just media criticism I’m happy to exclude you from it…”

          ah, come on ew. what an irritable comment. i just picked” media criticism” out of the air as a way for me to describe what i i thought you were doing. if you make a finer distinction, ok.

          i notice you have threatened others the same way recently; i really can’t always understand why.

          as for kicking me off your website, you and i have been thru this before. it’s your ball, you get to make the rules and take it home when you go.

          “I’m dealing in facts. And the facts that escape BOTH you and NYT are that Facebook has admitted to being used for more than just election-related trolling.”

          those facts don’t escape me at all. if you listen carefully to the underlying meaning of the facebook execvs words, you’ll see he is making explanations for the public to accept.

          • emptywheel says:

            I’m being irritable bc I wrote an entire post to point out how stupid your point is and you continue to make it over and over by simply INVENTING something.

            And I’m not interested in you distinguishing what I’m doing and what you are. I’m interested in distinguishing what I’m doing — which is looking at the known facts, and what NYT is doing — which is getting those facts wrong.

            • orionATL says:

              ew –

              you made your point about nytimes reporting very clearly; there really could be no question about that.

              on the other hand, as i specified in my opening paragraph, i was writing from the standpoint that american corporations routinely manufacture benign explanations for behavior that is not benign to their society. i can’t see what it is i was inventing by doing so. what was it? what was the “stupid” point i was foolishly making?

              it doesn’t prove much, but i’m not the only person to question rob goldman’s defense of facebook:


              • emptywheel says:

                Your assertion works like this: “Big corporations sometimes lie, so in spite of the fact that you’ve laid out at length that the big corporation NYT, not FB, got it wrong in this case, I’m still going to ignore that evidence and accuse big corporation FB of having it wrong.”

                You have no evidence. Just … invention in defiance of facts.

                • orionATL says:

                  thanks for the response, ew.

                  it seems very clear to me that what you wrote about and what i wrote about are so different in scope and content i can’t see how you can connect them in any reasonable way. you wrote on a micro scale; i wrote on a macro scale. while i was interested as a reader in your conclusions about nytimes, my comment had no place for and made no use of anything nytimes at all.

                  your post here has three specific inputs: 1)nytimes reporters statements, 2)facebook vp statement, and 3)mueller indictment.

                  you used a logical technique i admired (@5:58p) :”it is an admirably neat analytical point to distinguish berween the” universal” set of russian (all IRA?) facebook actions and the smaller subset of russian actions on which mueller’s team focused.” as the foundation of your critique of nytimes reporters.

                  you reached some conclusions about nytimes reporting. those conclusions were reasonable. i had nothing to add to them.

                  my comment (@5:58) was a large-scale comment questioning whether facebook had yet acknowledged the full extent of its general influence or its specific corporate assistance to trump as these may have affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. put differently, whether the facebook vp’s statement was in fact just another anodyne comment by facebook officials to mollify the public. i think that scepticism is well-warranted and that in time we will understand in much richer detail just how it was that facebook helped the trump campaign make it over the line.

                  unlike your post, my comment 1) had no use for input related to the nytimes, 2)had no use for detailed input related to mueller filings, but did use the statement by the facebook vp.

                  i cannot see any serious relationship between your argument and mine. neither supports the other; neither contradicts the other. they are apples and oranges.

                  what i did from the beginning was to express scepticism about what i consider facebook’s unwillingness to lay out in all necessary detail the extent to which its extraordinary communications facilities influenced the outcome of the campaign by boosting the trump campaign messages either as general russian or american verbal rabble rousing or as specific corporate assistance to the trump trump campaign.

                  ew writes (@9:40p): “… your assertion works like this: “Big corporations sometimes lie, so in spite of the fact that you’ve laid out at length that the big corporation NYT, not FB, got it wrong in this case, I’m still going to ignore that evidence and accuse big corporation FB of having it wrong.”

                  in my comment what the nytimes did or didn’t do is irrelevant. in my comment it is not my concern that” big corporation facebook” got anything wrong. it is my concern that facebook has not yet acknowledged the extent to which it communications capabilities in general AND its conscious corporate assistance favored the trump campaign.

                  apples and oranges.

        • orionATL says:

          not that it matters, ew, but i actually went to the trouble (@6:29) to clearly distinguish between what you were doing and what i was doing. it should be evident i wasn’t criticizing you. again, why the blaze of a anger?

    • orionATL says:

      well, well. it seems there is very good reason to question what facebook vp rob goldman tweeted:

      “He had made, however, two big errors—one of which was obvious and one of which was a bit subtle. The obvious error was asserting that one could understand the scope of the Russian propaganda campaign just through the ads. Russia’s ads were viewed roughly 11 million times, while posts by Russia-controlled accounts had been viewed 150 million times. Leaving aside pure numbers, anyone who had read the indictment knew that ads were a minute part of the operation. Facebook likes to point out that the Russians only spent a hundred thousand dollars on all their ads, a rather small number in comparison to the $1.25 million that the indictment reveals Russia’s Internet Research Agency was spending monthly on its election influence campaign.”

      from the business insider article:

      “… The problem with Goldman’s tweets, basically, was that they seemed to contradict the work done by Mueller and his investigative team — the tweets analyzed the election interference solely through the lens of advertisements, not taking into account the vast amount of information Mueller has… ”

      “solely thru the lens of advertisements”.

      thanks to bay state librul (@2:56p) for the tip off.

  9. Yogarhythms says:

    EW, thank you 🙏 . Discernment is required. The political/societal/individual costs from sub-set IRA activities vs more global IRA activities the former indicted the latter ignored at our collective peril. I don’t feel your replies are unwarranted.

  10. Rapier says:

    The NY Times has invested years in promoting the narrative that Putin/Russia are the devil. In ways direct and indirect this whole drama springs from that in ways that it would take a book to cover. The Times isn’t going to get too involved in the details of this story because it serves no purpose. The purpose being engendering hatred of Putin/Russia, period. Hell they have hit a home run, now they just have to trot around the bases.

  11. Avattoir says:

    Only slightly OT, I think: Goldsmith posted something pretty much as stupid at LawFare:

    When, at its end, he performs an unrestrained embrace of a piece by NRO’s Andrew McCarthy, not only does that carry no surprise, its impact is less that of a tell than a reminder of which administration hired Goldsmith to work at OLC.

  12. Mitchell says:

    The Times is simply a piece of crap journalistically. The amount of flawed reportage is breath taking. Far too many people think it’s the gold standard of corporate media.

  13. Bay State Librul says:

    Could this be the larger issue?

    “Nobody believes Mark Zuckerberg woke up one morning and decided to destroy the media industry. His company’s behavior is a lot more like an elephant accidentally stepping on an ant—something that has happened while Facebook has gone about its business.

    “Facebook is a threat not necessarily because it’s evil but because it does what it does very well, which is to target people for advertisers,” says Martin Nisenholtz, former head of digital strategy at The New York Times. The question, he says, is “has it become so dominant now that it’s become essentially a monopoly, and if so what should publishers do about it?”

    The game of Monopoly rears its ugly head.

    Democracy/greater good/ capitalism/journalism/elections

  14. Rapier says:

    RE: “The Times is simply a piece of crap journalistically” 

    Nobody can get the whole story.  The problem with the Times is that on matters of the political economy,what and how it covers that world ends up defining the limits of the story and setting the dominant focus of the stories on a day to day basis. Everybody who is anybody reads the Time headlines and sub headlines and since everyone does everyone refers to what it says on any day.

  15. lefty665 says:

    Thank you Marcy, making the clear distinction between the whole of what IRA was doing and the sub-set Mueller has indicted is needed. As you pointed out, even our major media fail to get it straight.

    There is a link  below to a Moon of A post that views IRA as mostly, if not entirely,  a money making troll operation. As you note, IRA took both sides of many controversial issues (along with pictures of puppies). They generated clicks that IRA then monetized by selling ads.  To the extent they violated US election laws (and identity theft laws, apparently done to facilitate financial transactions, not to steal from individuals, but theft nonetheless) Mueller’s indictment seems appropriate.

    #notmypresident in late November ’16 is an IRA example of both anti Trump agitating and Goldman’s observation that more than half the “Russian” posts were run after the election.

    Apparently roughly 1/4 of IRA trolls were focused on the US, and the largest concentration was focused on Russia.

    Imagine, those sneaky Ruskie trolls using our Amurican god given politically potent “Likes” to generate advertising sales revenue. Seems like the essence of capitalism, but can our egos stand being dissed like this, or does it demand that we retreat into denial?

    Please note that near the end of his post Moon also notes he is German and posted many election related items on US hosted platforms without registering or filing with the FEC. He asks if  under the logic of the Mueller indictment he could be indicted.  Is there a distinction between free and political speech? If political speech is expressed in America does privilege only apply to US citizens? Could emptywheel posters be indicted for not filing with the FEC? How about comments by those of us here in the peanut gallery?


    • Trip says:

      Traffic and economics
      The total number of unique users viewing the websites monthly collectively amounted to 33 to more than 36 million by the middle of February, various sources claim. The traffic to these websites, therefore, exceeds those of Komsomolskaya Pravda and RBK. By contrast, in December 2015, the publications’ aggregate monthly audience, according to Alexa Rank, did not exceed 6 million users.
      The publications’ webpages display little online advertising and only two of the websites list contact details for publicity teams (and, when called, both lines are picked up by the same person).
      According to RBK, it is possible that the publications are subsidized by the companies of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a restaurateur catering to state structures and owner of the Concord group. The media has found links between Prigozhin and the “troll factory” and Wagner’s private military company. FAN head Yevgeny Zubarev said that he could not comment on this information and Alexey Nikiforov said that he works in a company that “maintains itself thanks to advertising.”
      https://meduza .io /en/feature/2017/03/24/the-nahnews-and-pohnews-empire

      [Readers should use extra caution when opening Meduza links. / ~Rayne]

      • lefty665 says:

        Your point is?  What we see is a troll organization, only roughly 1/4 of which targeted the US.  These are f#$%ing trolls we’re talking about, not some sophisticated Russian intelligence operation.

        We’re coming up on a year of this shit and what Mueller has to show for it is several people lying to the FBI, Manafort’s money laundering, Carter Page space cadet, and 13 Russian troll masters, some of whom are in the slammer in Russia for failing to pay their worker trolls, others for treason, perhaps Russia speak for CIA employees.

        The NYT can’t tell the difference between the anti Hillary posts that Mueller used to wrap actual criminal conduct of identity theft in and the posts of puppy dogs.  Hysterical Dems are running around with their hair on fire, like chicken little ranting that “The sky is falling, the Russians are trolling, Trump, Trump, Trump. It’s TROLLS, be afraid, be very afraid.”

        One of the indictments is for a pair who came to the US to “gather intelligence”. Mueller says the intelligence they gathered from someone in Texas was to target the purple states like Virginia, Florida and Colorado. You have to send people sneaking around the country to figure out that states where the outcome was in doubt was where the action would be?  For grins I Googled “swing states 2016”. I got 219,000,000 hits in .56 seconds.  They’d have learned more and saved a bunch of money if they’d just surfed the web on their lunch hours, but then we’re dealing with trolls, not rocket scientists or Russian intelligence operatives.

        • Trip says:

          The point I made is that the operation likely wasn’t set up as a money making scheme from ads. It’s not an independent ragtag penny ante set-up by a little upstart. The websites within Russia barely have advertising. The purpose is propaganda. Whether or not it is or was successful in the US is another story. But the farm and the sites are alleged to be financed by “Putin’s Chef”, Yevgeny Prigozhin. An enormously wealthy confidante of Putin who receives government contracts and is intertwined in many Kremlin goals, including the Wagner Group, which is the mercenary group operating in Syria.

          The group began operating in eastern Ukraine and shifted its focus to Syria after Russia launched its intervention there in 2015. Analysts say as many as 2,000-3,000 men have been deployed with Wagner in Syria, giving the casualty-shy Russian army a valuable tool on the ground. Evro Polis, another company linked to Mr Prigozhin, reportedly won the rights to a cut of Syria’s oil revenue in exchange for seizing and protecting fields from Islamic State. The group is believed to have been involved in clashes with American-backed Kurdish forces earlier this month near the city of Deir Ez-Zor. Scores of Russians were reported dead.

          It’s a tiny tentacle of a larger octopus inside the government, but it provides plausible deniability for the government. Your argument used in a US example, would be that the Koch brothers aren’t influential and intertwined, because they sell lowly Dixie cups.

          And Goldman admitted that ads were greater after the election. But that did not include commentary which reached a much larger grouping. A number of people have posted his clarification, so you can search for it on this site.




          • lefty665 says:

            IRA was set up to counter bad social media publicity (apparently deserved) for the Chef’s food, both supplied to schools and served in restaurants. That operation was successful and was expanded. It’s a private for profit operation, not an arm of the Russian government.  Your Koch analogy is blather.

            But go ahead frolic in your RUSSIA hysteria. You know you got it if it makes you feel good.


  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Nice interview with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez.  Informed, confident, well-spoken, effective, energetic.  You went to Amherst, right? :-)

  17. Bay State Librul says:

    Mea Culpa
    here is what happens when Don the Con muddies the bloody waters………

    Business Insider reports…

    …..On Monday, Goldman posted a similar message to his coworkers. Here’s his full statement, courtesy of Wired:

    “I wanted to apologize for having tweeted my own view about Russian interference without having it reviewed by anyone internally. The tweets were my own personal view and not Facebook’s. I conveyed my view poorly. The Special Counsel has far more information about what happened [than] I do — so seeming to contradict his statements was a serious mistake on my part.

    “To those of you who have reached out this weekend to offer your support, thank you. It means more than you know. And to all of you who have worked so hard over the last six months to demonstrate that we understand our responsibility to prevent abuse on Facebook — and are working hard to do better in the future — my deepest apologies.”

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