Following the epic fail of US Congressmen trying to prove that the “smoking gun” for Russia-Trump collusion came in the form of a measly $100,000 in Facebook ads from “Russian-linked” accounts, the next social network in the “Russia hysteria” firing line was Twitter.
After Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg had to publicly admit that $100,000 in ads could never sway a US election, capitol hill swamp creatures were desperate to find some Russian mischief buried away in tweets.
Responding to demands to look into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, Twitter executives met with US lawmakers behind closed doors. Despite Twitter’s efforts at transparency, the senior Democrat on the Senate panel left the meeting unhappy.
Twitter’s Vice President for Public Policy Colin Crowell met with with members of the House and Senate intelligence committees on Thursday, discussing the allegations that Russia had abused the platform to somehow interfere in the US electoral process.
After being asked to look into 450 accounts that Facebook flagged as fake and “suspected” Russian bots earlier this month, Twitter found 22 corresponding accounts on their platform and suspended them for violating the company’s rules against spam. Twitter also suspended another 179 “related or linked accounts” that were in violation of their terms of service. None of the 201 accounts were registered as advertisers, the company said.
“Twitter deeply respects the integrity of the election process, which is a cornerstone for all democracies. We will continue to strengthen Twitter against attempted manipulation, including malicious automated accounts and spam, as well as other activities that violate our Terms of Service,” Twitter said.
The big revelation however came in the form of Twitter Ads paid for by RT, RT America and RT en Español…totaling $274,100 for 1,823 US ads for their respective Twitter accounts, that “definitely or potentially targeted the US market.”
Thats a whopping $174,100 more in ad spending by RT than the $100,000 paid for on Facebook by the mysterious “Russian-linked” accounts. Surely the $174,100 extra spent on twitter by RT flipped the election in Trump’s favor.
RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said that she wasn’t aware paying for advertising is now considered suspicious or harmful in a developed democracy such as the United States.
“This is forcing us to go a step further and come clean that we also spent money on advertising at airports, in taxis, on billboards, on the Internet, on TV and radio. Even CNN ran our commercials,” Simonyan said. “By the way, similar campaigns are conducted by the American media in the Russian segment of Twitter. It’ll be very interesting to find out how much they spend on it, who they target and for what purpose.”
According to RT during the 2016 election, Twitter said they deleted thousands of tweets and accounts that attempted to “suppress or otherwise interfere with the exercise of voting rights, including the right to have a vote counted, by circulating intentionally misleading information.”
This included tweets that told users they could cast their ballots by text or tweet, which is not true. Twitter also said that they shared the content of deleted tweets with investigators on Thursday. The company however noted that they did not find any of those accounts had “obvious Russian origin.”
“We have not found accounts associated with this activity to have obvious Russian origin but some of the accounts appear to have been automated,” the company wrote.
Every week, Twitter said their automated systems catch more than 3.2 million suspicious accounts. The company blamed Russia for being the “primary source of automated and spammy content on Twitter for many years,” but did not provide any evidence of that claim.
Though Twitter promised to work with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and Congress on making the social media platform more transparent, this was apparently not good enough for Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Warner said he was disappointed in Twitter after the meeting, saying their presentation was “frankly inadequate on almost every level,” according to CBS News.
“The notion that their work was basically derivative, based upon accounts that Facebook had identified, showed [an] enormous lack of understanding from the Twitter team of how serious this issue is, the threat it poses to democratic institutions, and again begs many more questions than they offered,” Warner said, adding that the American public had the right to know if any ads that appear on Twitter’s newsfeed were “generated by interests from Americans or generated by interests from, by activities of foreign powers.”
Frankly I don’t think they understand how serious this problem is. https://t.co/6oMox8856C
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) September 28, 2017
Unfortunately, much like Facebook’s disclosure offered up a couple of weeks ago, Twitter apparently underwhelmed Democrats in Congress who continue to relentlessly pursue a “smoking gun” to prove that their perpetual investigations over the past year have been something other than a colossal waste of time.
Of course, upon reviewing Twitter’s press release on the topic, we can understand why Senator Warner described Twitter’s disclosures today as “deeply disappointing.” After spending months investigating, Twitter apparently was only able to find 201 accounts (out of roughly 68 million in the U.S., btw) linked to “potentially Russian related” users. Moreover, and undoubtedly adding to Warner’s frustration, Twitter further noted that not a single one of the 201 accounts “were registered as advertisers on Twitter.”
Just a thought here Mr. Warner, but perhaps Twitter’s disclosures were disappointing not because they are lazy or are trying to conceal the facts…maybe, just maybe, the evidence you covet simply doesn’t exist…just a thought.
That said, if Twitter is suddenly interested in fully disclosing the ad revenue they collected from various media outlets then perhaps they can let us all know how much money the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSBC, etc. spent promoting their news stories on Twitter and what percentage of those stories were pro-Hillary and/or anti-Trump…wouldn’t that disclosure be just as relevant?