Wednesday, May 24, 2017

FEC looks into whether Trump and Russia spread fake news on Facebook

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    FEC looks into whether Trump and Russia spread fake news on ...
    1 day ago ... The Federal Election Commission may investigate whether Russian agents paid for Facebook ads to spread damaging stories about Hillary ... Tools like Deep Root drove the scaled-back TV ad spending by identifying ... and interactions between officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign ... 
    So this is new.
    The Federal Election Commission may investigate whether Russian agents paid for Facebook ads to spread damaging stories about Hillary Clinton in the weeks ahead of the presidential election.
    FEC commissioner Ellen Weintrub, a Democratic appointee, asked the agency to examine whether foreign agents illegally paid the social media service for political advertisements, in addition to related ongoing probes initiated by complaints filed by watchdog groups in December, reported Politico.
    FEC commissioners agreed unanimously in October to prioritize investigations into complaints about foreign election contributions — which is prohibited by the Federal Election Campaign Act.
    Foreign nationals are prohibited under the law from making expenditures to influence U.S. elections, and campaigns are barred from coordinating with outside entities.
    The complaint also asked the FEC to investigate evidence that Trump’s campaign associates violated campaign finance laws by coordinating with Russians.
    This means that not only is the FBI and Special Prosecutor looking into this, as well as the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and sub-committees, so is Financial crimes unit of the Treasury Department and now the FEC.   That’s a lot of investigating for a “made up” story.
    It’s important that we understand what Phase II of the hacking program was, and it included not just breaking into the DNC but actually using Twitter to break into thousands of people’s computers and phones that belong to members of the DoD.  A report on this by Time Magazine is part of why commission Weintraub has began this FEC investigation.
    On March 2, a disturbing report hit the desks of U.S. counterintelligence officials in Washington. For months, American spy hunters had scrambled to uncover details of Russia’s influence operation against the 2016 presidential election. In offices in both D.C. and suburban Virginia, they had created massive wall charts to track the different players in Russia’s multipronged scheme. But the report in early March was something new.
    It described how Russia had already moved on from the rudimentary email hacks against politicians it had used in 2016. Now the Russians were running a more sophisticated hack on Twitter. The report said the Russians had sent expertly tailored messages carrying malware to more than 10,000 Twitter users in the Defense Department. Depending on the interests of the targets, the messages offered links to stories on recent sporting events or the Oscars, which had taken place the previous weekend. When clicked, the links took users to a Russian-controlled server that downloaded a program allowing Moscow’s hackers to take control of the victim’s phone or computer–and Twitter account.
    As they scrambled to contain the damage from the hack and regain control of any compromised devices, the spy hunters realized they faced a new kind of threat. In 2016, Russia had used thousands of covert human agents and robot computer programs to spread disinformation referencing the stolen campaign emails of Hillary Clinton, amplifying their effect. Now counterintelligence officials wondered: What chaos could Moscow unleash with thousands of Twitter handles that spoke in real time with the authority of the armed forces of the United States? At any given moment, perhaps during a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, Pentagon Twitter accounts might send out false information. As each tweet corroborated another, and covert Russian agents amplified the messages even further afield, the result could be panic and confusion.
    The article goes on to describe how Russia used Twitter to target specific reporters who might be sympathetic with fake news reports, and of course the issue of the false ads paid for on Facebook.
    They are also looking into whether these cyber efforts were coordinating with the Trump campaigns on voter targeting efforts which were used to aid the Russian bots and trolls.
    Sources familiar with the investigations say they are probing two Trump-linked organizations: Cambridge Analytica, a data-analytics company hired by the campaign that is partly owned by deep-pocketed Trump backer Robert Mercer; and Breitbart News, the right-wing website formerly run by Trump’s top political adviser Stephen Bannon
    Shortly after the election Forbes interview Jared Kushner who was happy to gush about the data-mining and voter targeting operation that he had helped setup with Cambridge Analytica.
    At first Kushner dabbled, engaging in what amounted to a beta test using Trump merchandise. “I called somebody who works for one of the technology companies that I work with, and I had them give me a tutorial on how to use Facebook micro-targeting,” Kushner says. Synched with Trump’s blunt, simple messaging, it worked. The Trump campaign went from selling $8,000 worth of hats and other items a day to $80,000, generating revenue, expanding the number of human billboards–and proving a concept. In another test, Kushner spent $160,000 to promote a series of low-tech policy videos of Trump talking straight into the camera that collectively generated more than 74 million views.
    This wasn’t a completely raw startup. Kushner’s crew was able to tap into the Republican National Committee’s data machine, and it hired targeting partners like Cambridge Analytica to map voter universes and identify which parts of the Trump platform mattered most: trade, immigration or change. Tools like Deep Root drove the scaled-back TV ad spending by identifying shows popular with specific voter blocks in specific regions–say, NCIS for anti-ObamaCare voters or The Walking Dead for people worried about immigration. Kushner built a custom geo-location tool that plotted the location density of about 20 voter types over a live Google Maps interface.
    Soon the data operation dictated every campaign decision: travel, fundraising, advertising, rally locations–even the topics of the speeches. “He put all the different pieces together,” Parscale says. “And what’s funny is the outside world was so obsessed about this little piece or that, they didn’t pick up that it was all being orchestrated so well.
    It seems now that the FEC is going to be looking into whether these tactics weren’t just used by the Trump campaign itself, but whether they’re micro-targeting was mimicked by Russia in their push to get as much fake-news and anti-Clinton propaganda as possible — including sabotaging Bernie Facebook pages — creating an echo effect with the campaigns own efforts, and vice versa.
    All of this is even more critical if Kushner was among one of the person in the Trump campaign that former CIA director John Brennan testified today that might have been “coordinating and colluding with the Russians” according to the intel he had received.
    “I’m aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts on such individuals,” Brennan told members of the House Intelligence Committee.
    “And it raised questions in my mind whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals,” he added. “I don’t know whether or not such collusion existed. I don’t know. But I know there was a sufficient basis of information to require investigation by the [FBI] to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials.”
    It’s seem likely that he’s speaking here of Flynn and Page who clearly have a history of Russia attempting to influence them.  Other possibilities are Manafort, Stone, Cohen, Horton and Sater.  The inclusion of Kushner, who did join one of the clandestine meetings with Kislyak along with Flynn and has since been named a “person of interest” in the investigation would be very, very serious because of his involvement with Cambridge Analytics.

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