President Donald Trump went on a “fake news” Twitter attack over the Russian indictments Saturday, citing a Facebook ad executive who said the Russians’ “main goal” was not to sway the presidential election.
Rob Goldman, Facebook vice president of ad sales, tweeted Friday that he believed the primary goal of the Russian operation named in special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments was to divide Americans, not to influence the election. Goldman said 56 percent of the Facebook ads purchased by the indicted Russians ran after the election, but the press hasn’t covered that because it doesn’t “align with the main media narrative of Trump and the election.”
Trump latched onto Goldman’s tweets, saying, “The Fake News Media never fails. Hard to ignore the fact from the Vice President of Facebook Ads, Rob Goldman!”
Goldman later clarified he was referring to Russian behavior on Facebook only. He was also apparently only addressing ad purchases. Facebook has testified before Congress that while 3,000 suspect ads reached 10 million people, some 80,000 unpaid posts reached 126 million users.
Mueller’s indictment, announced Friday, against 13 Russians and three Russian organizations, stated the intention of the Russian trolls on social media was “to interfere with the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” It also said the aim was to sway the election for Trump and Bernie Sanders — and against Hillary Clinton.
The indictment points to manipulation of both political posts and ads on social media platforms, including Twitter and Instagram, by Russians allegedly pretending to be Americans. By September before the election, they were operating on a monthly budget of $1.24 million, according to the indictment.
Facebook has come under attack for failing to alert readers or to police posts and ads on its platform. Facebook now has a tool for users to determine if they liked any pages or accounts created by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency (IRA), one of the groups named in the indictment. Nearly 150 million Facebook and Instagram users may have seen ads and posts circulated by the group.
Facebook has announced a new process for election ads which will require that verification postcards be mailed back through the U.S. Postal Service to anyone buying election ads, Reuters reports. The postcards will contain a special code that advertisers must send back to prove they’re in the United States.
Twitter announced last month nearly 700,000 people in the U.S. followed, retweeted or liked content distributed by Russian government-linked Twitter accounts in the 10 weeks before the U.S. presidential election.
Trump also tweeted that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said at the press conference announcing the indictments that there was “no allegation” any American was a “willing participant in the illegal activity” or that the “conduct altered the election.” In fact, the indictment reached no conclusion about the Russian impact on the election results.
Trump went on to repeat that the Russian operation was launched in 2014, “long before I joined the race.”