The 2016 Election Result Simply Never Should Have Been Certified

Another day; additional information about how Russia interfered with the 2016 election.

In yesterday's We Resist thread, I linked to a piece at Talking Points Memo detailing how Russia had targeted the Wisconsin Elections Commission via an online ad.

In comments, I also linked to a Wall Street Journal piece detailing how Russian hackers stole highly classified material via antivirus software made by Russia-based Kaspersky Lab.

Today, there is another piece at the Wall Street Journal, reporting that Facebook "cut references to Russia from a public report in April about manipulation of its platform around the presidential election because of concerns among the company's lawyers and members of its policy team, according to people familiar with the matter."
The drafting of the report sparked internal debate over how much information to disclose about Russian mischief on Facebook and its efforts to affect U.S. public opinion during the 2016 presidential contest, according to these people. Some at Facebook pushed to not include a mention of Russia in the report because the company's understanding of Russian activity was too speculative, according to one of the people.

Ultimately, the 13-page report, published on April 27 and titled "Information Operations and Facebook," was shortened by several pages by Facebook's legal and policy teams from an earlier draft, and didn't mention Russia at all, the people said.

Rather, it concluded that "malicious actors" engaged in influence campaigns during the U.S. presidential election but said it couldn't determine who was responsible. The extent of Facebook's understanding at the time of Russian influence is unclear.
So, add Facebook to the list of people who knew that Russia was fucking with the U.S. presidential election but decided to cover it up rather than raise every goddamn alarm about it.

And why not? Facebook made bank from Russia during the election: "Facebook is finally making clear just how pervasive Russia-bought political ads were on its platform in the days and weeks before and after the election. Around 10 million Facebook users saw Russia-bought political ads, according to new information released on Monday night by the company. The disclosure, which the company previously shared with Congress, marks the first time the social network has shared how many of its users saw the $100,000 worth of political ads linked to Russian actors."

[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Further, as reported by CNN Money today, Russian disruptors also used Facebook to hawk merch in an attempt to divide the U.S. electorate:
"Young, gifted and black." "Melanin and muscles." "Our sons matter." The slogans on the clothing that a group called "Blacktivist" offered for sale through Facebook were supposed to look like they came from American Black Lives Matter activists. But they were in fact being promoted by a Russian-linked group working to amplify political discord in the U.S. before the presidential election.

CNN first reported last week that "Blacktivist" accounts on Facebook and Twitter had regularly shared content intended to stoke outrage in an apparent attempt to amplify racial tensions during the U.S. presidential election. The accounts have been suspended and are among those handed over to Congress as part of its investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The page appears to have sold fewer than 100 items of Blacktivist-branded merchandise, but the actual amount of clothing sold is less significant than what the effort represented: A move by the people behind Blacktivist to go beyond social media and spread their influence into the physical world. The Blacktivist Facebook page also promoted at least seven rallies and demonstrations around the U.S. in 2016.

Jonathon Morgan, the founder of New Knowledge, a company that tracks the spread of misinformation online, says the promotion of events and the sale of merchandise is straight out of the Russian misinformation handbook, and that it "fits a pattern of Russian propagandists' attempts at appearing as authentic Americans participating in politics."
It has long been clear, even long before Election Day, that Russia was trying to influence the result of the 2016 presidential election. With each passing day, we get more detail on the various methods they used to do precisely that.

The truth is, there is simply no way this election result ever should have been certified. And I will say again what I've said since it was (wrongly) certified: It needs to be vacated.

I don't believe vacating the election result is remotely likely. Doesn't make it any less true that it's what should happen, though.

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