Thursday, May 25, 2017

Facebook Data: The Missing Link in Trump Russia Impeachable Offense... by gimleteye

Facebook has a serious problem, and it goes beyond the corporation's efforts to monitor terms of use violations. (That story was featured on Nightly News recently.) Facebook has become a platform for illegal political activity and an undeclared conduit for very large political contributions. No one knows the geographical extent but Facebook, but it certainly includes the United States from a review of hundreds -- if not thousands -- of Facebook pages that can be roughly described as linked to Trump Friends.

Trump Friends Facebook page is a port-hole into an Alice In Wonderland world of interconnected pages that mix hate, Christianity, anti-Islamic, homophobic and race baiting, with support for Donald Trump. This is a different world and different problem that what Facebook acknowledges.

Whoever is making these Facebook pages doesn't even attempt to mask that they are created by fake identities and based on software templates: in short, the templates include a fill-in space for a jpeg or short video clip, ask a "yes" or "no" question on a theme designed to make the reader fearful or anxious and to provoke a "comment". Many, if not most, of the comments on Trump Facebook pages appear to be created by either bots (ie. artificial intelligence) or for-hire sock puppets (ie. freelancers who haunt the comment section of many blogs and Facebook pages).

One could try to make the case that these pages are free speech and not electioneering, the better case against Facebook is made by what happens next: manipulators of Facebook data merge political messages with Facebook commenters or user profiles otherwise stolen/ hacked from Facebook. How this happens, and by whom, is the question. It is the missing piece of the Trump Russia investigation and can either be provided by intelligence agencies or by Facebook or both.

The following, from Media Matters, is an accurate summary of where we are today:
An Oxford professor and researcher are calling on Facebook to cooperate with scientists and share its data on fake news and fake accounts in part because of its relevancy to the Trump/Russia investigation.

During the 2016 presidential election, a tidal wave of fake news and misinformation was pushed on social media via artificial computer programs called "bots." The FBI is currently investigating how Russian bots used social media platforms during the elections to spread pro-Trump articles from Russian outlets and outlets affiliated with the “alt-right.” Today, bots continue to push misinformation to influence public perception of the Trump administration, mixing fervor, Christianity, with certainty that Trump is being unfairly persecuted by critics.

Due to concerns surrounding (fake Facebook accounts) and fake news, multiple experts have previously called on Facebook to share its data, as its efforts to combat fake news have thus far failed.

Oxford professor Philip Howard and Oxford researcher Robert Gorwa noted in a March 20 Washington Post op-ed that Facebook’s refusal to share data on fake news and fake accounts “has made it difficult to know how many voters are affected or where this election interference comes from.” They wrote that Facebook “has the metadata to identify precisely which accounts were created, where they operated and what kinds of things those users were up to during the U.S. election.” That could also mean that Facebook could help determine if “there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian influence operations” and could “prevent interference with democratic deliberation” going forward. From the op-ed:

Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg know. The UK Guardian has already linked the principals, Cambridge Analytica, Robert Mercer, and Steve Bannon, to electoral data manipulation and there is clear evidence that Russia was amplifying the exact same messaging that the Trump campaign and candidate himself brought to rallies in 2016. The missing links are in the data trails from Facebook.

Today, a Facebook user who tracks Trump-friendly pages would be hard pressed to reach a conclusion that Trump-related entities are literally trying to set Facebook on fire, the same way an arsonist might set a fire to cover up crime that occurred there. It is as though Facebook abuse is increasing exponentially by users' design to create a hall of mirrors that makes analyses of meta-data impossible.

Except. Except that Facebook archival data is absolutely available for 2016 in order to analyze and to track when and how voter rolls were merged with user profiles. It happened and it wasn't free speech. It was a major election law violation that could rise to treason if collusion between Trump, its campaign officials, and Russia is established.

That's why there are so many lawyers busy in DC. This is the direction that grand juries and the FBI should be looking, but it will need Facebook' cooperation, and I hope that Facebook does voluntarily extend that cooperation now.


Anonymous said...

Frankenstein technology devouring it's children, is that cool or what.

Anonymous said...

Sorry state of affairs