5:14 PM 10/31/2017 – Did Moscow Get Help From the Trump Campaign in Its Social-Media Trolling?

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Kushner Russiagate

Cambridge Analytica, or CA, is a firm that in 2016 was closely tied to, and partly owned by, two people in Trump’s innermost circle: Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart chief who served until August as chief strategist in the White House, and Robert Mercer, a billionaire hedge-fund mogul who was one of the principal financiers behind the campaign. And Cambridge, which operates worldwide (it just announced plans to expand its reach to China), has significant experience in Russia already. Via a report in the Daily Beast, we learn that The Guardian’s Sunday Observer pulled back the curtain on links between Cambridge and its parent firm, the London-based SCL, and Russia. “Multiple Cambridge Analytica sources have revealed other links to Russia, including trips to the country, meetings with executives from Russian state-owned companies, and references by SCL employees to working for Russian entities,” reported the Observer.The same report added that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) is investigating CA’s activities, and that Cambridge is cooperating with the inquiry… 

Though much is yet unknown, it does appear that the Russian-backed ads on Facebook were carefully targeted. “A number of Russian-linked Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two states crucial to Donald Trump’s victory last November, according to four sources with direct knowledge of the situation,” reported CNN on October 4. “Some of the Russian ads appeared highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal, two of the sources said. The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages, sources said.”

CNN added: “As part of their investigations, both special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees are seeking to determine whether the Russians received any help from Trump associates in where to target the ads.”… 

As reported here in Part I and in a previous piece for The Nation on Russia’s use of Facebook, many of the ads and fake accounts were aimed at exacerbating America’s most volatile and sensitive divisions. Malkia Cyril, founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice and a member of the Black Lives Matter network in Oakland, California, tells TheNation that all of this sets a dangerous precedent and requires urgent action by the government to make sure it stops.

“Let’s be clear—this is not simply about what Russian operatives did,” says Cyril. “This is about the collusion, knowing or unwitting, between these operatives and social-media platforms; about the collusion between global right-wing forces within the United States, Russia and beyond, using disinformation tactics historically used by our own CIA, to undermine democracy here and abroad.


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