Vulnerabilities / Threats

5/11/2018
12:45 PM
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Newly Released Russian Facebook Ads Show Scale of Manipulation

House Democrats this week released 3,500 Facebook ads demonstrating the extent of Russia's influence on US citizens from 2015 to 2017.

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have shared more details of Russia's interference in the 2016 US Presidential Election with the release of 3,000 Facebook ads. The ads, purchased by Russia's Internet Research Agency (IRA), ran from 2015 to 2017.

Committee members this week released a total of 3,519 ads and stated more than 11.4 million Americans were exposed to them. The IRA also created 470 Facebook pages, which generated 80,000 pieces of organic content and were seen by more than 126 million Americans, the Committee reports. It plans to release this organic content at a later date.

Earlier this year, a federal grand jury indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities, including the IRA, for their participation in a scheme to interfere with the 2016 election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller alleges that they aimed to sow discord in the US political system. They posed as US citizens and businesses to buy political ads on social media and spread disinformation.

Now we have more details about what these ads included and who they targeted. While not all of them are pro-Trump, they depict controversial and high-profile issues -- the Second Amendment, Black Lives Matter movement, immigration, LGBT rights among them -- in a way designed to pit groups of Americans against each other.

In recent public statements, Facebook admits it was "too slow to spot this type of information operations interference" and the company says it plans to make changes with the intent of stopping threat actors from leveraging misinformation to change the democratic process. For example, Facebook is creating an archive so users can search back through issues and political ads for up to seven years and view ad impressions, spending, and demographic data like age, gender, and location. Advertisers will need to confirm their ID and location before running political ads in the US, and ads will say who paid for them.

Read more details here and view the ads here.

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SchemaCzar
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SchemaCzar,
User Rank: Strategist
5/15/2018 | 1:01:02 PM
Re: A reminder that the internet can be divisive
I agree with your point that blaming the current administration is not useful.

However, I think that the problem with the ads is likely the lack of clear attribution and accountability, and the usual advertisements posted by acknowledged political organizations should not be prohibitive either in price or in ability to get through whatever screening is being proposed.
JasonTLouis
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JasonTLouis,
User Rank: Strategist
5/14/2018 | 11:36:53 AM
Re: A reminder that the internet can be divisive
I'm not sure this has much, if anything to do with the current administration. The burden is on Facebook and other social media companies to police their own site. These same individuals/companies took out ads that were in favor and opposing both candidates. They started events and groups that were for and against both candidates. We can quibble over who had more "pro" related material taken out on them, but the same actors seemed to have more of an agenda to cause chaos and cause overreactions from both political parties. In my eyes, they succeeeded.

Blaming one candidate or administration is being very disingenuous knowing what we know now. All the Russians involved did the same thing for both candidates. Facebook could have done more to look into who's taking out these ads, starting these groups and pages, creating these events, creating bot accounts, but did not. Only when they were dragged into the investigation did they come clean and decide to take further steps to mitigate this. In the future, it is probably going to be extremely hard to take out political ads unless you are a massive super pac or direct campaign taking out the ads (thinking 2020 campaign season). Who knows as we still don't know half of the information we probably should and I highly doubt Facebook is going to release any information they don't legally have to.

If you are going to blame the current administration, you ultimately must blame the previous as this happened under their watch. It works both ways and if you just blanket one side with the fault, the root of the problem will never get solved.
JasonTLouis
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JasonTLouis,
User Rank: Strategist
5/14/2018 | 9:59:36 AM
Indicted Russians and the current court case
If you are going to mention that 13 Russians were indicted, it would benefit the readers to know more about what's going on the courts as Mueller is not having a good time with those included in the indictments. One company was not even a company when Mueller is alleging they were. Mueller's team also requested a delay in the case and judge denied this. Then they have all plead not guilty but it's not surprising they would. There's more but there are a few good legal blogs that go into more detail. I'd try to avoid your typical news sites as they do not go into as much detail and what they include and don't include depends on which political ideology they lean. If nothing else, I think it would be good to link to a legal news site or blog that explains in a bit more detail what's currently playing out in the courts with this as it will become very important in the near future and the legality of who can take out ads and who cannot.
carlosPochote
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carlosPochote,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/11/2018 | 2:58:13 PM
A reminder that the internet can be divisive
For many years, the Internet has been a great tool for technological advancements, enabling many applications to be accessible by many.  Web portals, SaaS, cloud services, IoT, etc. have made our life easier from a convenience perspective, but social tools such as Facebook, twitter, WhatsApp, G+, and any blog out there has opened a door that we never expected.  And I'm not talking simple annoying messages, this is material that can destroy a nation, lives and disrupt economies and political models.

It is up to those companies to responsibly manage and develop their products as well as to provide security controls to regular users like us to prevent this manipulation.  Our responsibility is to educate ourselves on the dangers that can come through these sources and resist biting the bait.

I does not help when the administration questions its own security agencies, or any other professional recommendation/opinion when talking about cybersecurity.  This is real.

 
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